Today sees the start of the Chinese New Year as the outgoing Year of the Snake makes way for the Year of the Horse. With an estimated 14% of the Thai population being from Chinese descent it’s an event that is celebrated throughout Thailand, but has particularly strong historical associations with areas including Phuket, Trang, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.The Chinese Lunar New Year (Spring Festival) isn’t an official holiday in Thailand, but some shops and businesses with Chinese links do close.
There are 12 animals in the zodiac and each year also has an element associated with it: wood, metal, fire, water and earth. This year, the horse is coupled with wood. If you are born in the Year of the Horse you are supposedly hard-working, honey-tongued, determined and good at adapting.
With red being the colour associated with keeping away bad spirits and bringing good luck, there is always plenty of red in evidence over the Chinese New Year period in Thailand. Firecrackers are lit, red lanterns hung up and ang pao (red money packets) are handed out as presents. This year, Thailand is holding an election on February 2 and although the colour red has become associated with supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, those that are opposed to him will still be able to happily wear red for a day or two.