Thai/Laos/Cambodian New Year incorporates family, food, fun in this year’s celebration


Because of COVID-19 shutdowns, many TLC families had to celebrate the new year in their homes. (photo courtesy of Janet Boualy)

TLC (Thai/Laos/Cambodian) New Year is coming up. For Thai New Year it is on April 13-15, but for Laos/Cambodians it is on April 14-16.

According to Office Holidays, in TLC New Year it “is marked by the sun entering the sign of Aries the Ram.” New Year usually lasts three days depending on the year. New Year can be celebrated in many different ways, the main two ways are going to the temple or doing an at home celebration.

My family normally goes to the temple, but due to covid we have been doing an at home celebration. My mom, Sav Yong, usually prepares food early in the morning with my aunt. Once all the food is prepared, we set them up on the table with pictures of our ancestors and small plates with rice and coins in them. 

“I pray three times,” said Mrs.Yong. “One when you’re lighting the incense the very first time, then you pray by calling the names of your ancestors from you mother and father side, you call them to come and eat the food that you made for them and tell them that it’s the new year, next you leave the food there for a while until the incense in gone and then you light a new incense and repeat the calling of the names. You do this one more time. Once the incense is gone, you take all the food you prepared and place them in a big tray and then take a candle and place them outside under a tree and call the people that died that have no family and tell them to come and eat.” 

In celebrating the TLC New Year at temple, participants take part in prayer, remembering their ancestors, and enjoying food together. (photo courtesy of Janet Boualy)

When celebrating at the temple, you prepare food the night before the celebration. You wake up early in the morning and prepare easy dishes. You get ready and make yourself presentable in order to go to the temple. You normally get to the temple around 10 am, you go and greet the monks and buddha statues. You unpack the foods you prepared and place them on a small tray. You tend to have two small trays, one is for you to give to the monk in order for him to bless the food for your ancestors. Typically, you would write your ancestors name on a piece of paper and place it on the small tray, the monk would then read the names off of the paper and then proceed to burn the paper in a gold bowl and sprinkle water on to it so that our ancestors can receive the food. The other tray is for you to serve the monk food to eat which happens after you do your ancestors first, which normally happens around 11 am.

After the monks finish eating, they walk around inside the temple and sprinkle holy water on the people. Once they do this, then the people can go and eat the food. After you finish the ceremony within the temple, you can go out and buy food or dance and just have a good time.

In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, the New Year is celebrated with water games, hide and seek, and days off of work and school!

However, in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia, it’s way more fun celebrating the New Year. During TLC New Year, there is no office work or farming.  Everything is closed, and everyone is off for those three days to celebrate. In all three countries, they have a fun custom where they splash water and baby powder on each other, sometimes adding perfume in the water. They have street performances where they play loud music and dance all round the buildings while eating and drinking. They also play games like hide and seek, roll up towels and throw them and whoever caught the towel would win and sing, while the losing side had to dance.  

This year, we are celebrating the water tiger sign. Happy New Year!