Most people celebrate January 1st as the New Year’s Day, the first day of the year. It is considered by many as a new day and a new beginning, but come to think about it, every day is a new day and can be a new beginning. I think New Year allows people to start a new beginning assuming that you did something bad the year before, this will allow you to start fresh, but really, you don’t need a new year to do this, you can do this any time of the year. As for most people, anything new might be a good thing, such as a new year, or new items, but I think the most valuable things are the old things, the things that we have, look at antique for example, worth a lot more than the new items, I believed the key is to learn to appreciate the things that we already have.
insense sticks by established 1987
On New Year’s Eve, some Lao and Thai people lit incense sticks to chase away bad spirits or things that happened during the year, and to welcoming the new beginning as they wish for a better coming new year. Some people blame on the animals from the Chinese animal sign of the year (as for me, I’m not blaming but I do have to say that last year was real bad for me) as last year was the year of the Rat (mouse) and that it was a bad (or good) rat and hoping that this year, the year of the Ox will be better for everyone.
But I often wondered about this, I think the ancient people gave the year animal signs (12 animal signs, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Lamb, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig that repeat every 12 years) so that they’d know which year you were born, easy way to remember and has nothing to do with the animals, so don’t blame on the Ox (cow or water buffalo) if you have a bad year.
For some of us, Alms giving on January 1st is a tradition that has passed down for generations and it’s a tradition amongst the Buddhist community whether you’re Laotian, Thai or Khmer (for those that were able to get up early enough that is, as for some might have been out partying all night.) I didn’t bring my camera yesterday, and the above photo was from last year, the Buddhist Temple that we visited on New Year’s Day is known as a Khmer temple (Buddhist Center) but the head monk speaks Lao, Thai, and Khmer and the Buddhist worshipers that were there yesterday are Laotians, Thais, and Khmers, a lot more turnout than last year, kind of surprised me since the economy continues its downward spiral, but I think people turn to the temple for emotional and moral support, and they want to start their New Year with merits making and hope for a blessing year.
As for the year of the Ox, it will not officially be recognized until January 26, 2009, the official New Year’s Day for Chinese people, which marks the beginning of Chinese New Year. New Year is one day when the celebration of New Year brings joy and prosperity for all.
Below are photos of Alms giving at Wat Mixay, a temple in Paksan Laos that I attended the event on November 12, 2008. In Laos, normally the monks would go out for their morning alms collection, but on Wan Sin (Buddhist holiday, this day happens to fall on 15 com) the locals would go to the temple for their morning Alms giving, and it starts at 7 AM.