We all know the three main festivals celebrated in Malaysia. There are also many other traditional and cultural celebrations observed in other Asian countries.
Of the many festivals in Thailand, the Songkran Festival is the most striking because it is widely observed not only in Thailand but also in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. In Thailand, it is celebrated from 13 to 15 April as a traditional New Year. The most special part of Songkran is the throwing of water at family and friends in the spirit of respect and joy. The water, sometimes filled with fragrant herbs, is meant to be a symbol of washing away all of the bad.
Songkran is also traditionally a time for one to visit and pay one’s respects to elders, including family members, friends, neighbours and monks. The Buddhists go to the Buddhist monasteries to pray and offer food to the monks. Many Thais also take this opportunity to give their home a thorough cleaning.
Boryeong Mud Festival
If you think mud is dirty, the opposite is true in Boryeong, Seoul, where mud, which is claimed to be beneficial for the skin, is used as part of a festival’s celebration.
This mud festival usually takes place in July on the Daecheon beach in Boryeong, Seoul, every year. The first one was held in the summer of 1998, and by 2007, it had attracted over 2.2 million visitors to Boryeong. It all started when cosmetics were produced with the mud from this area, which the producers claimed contained natural ingredients from minerals, bentonites and germaniums.
During the festival, the mud will be transferred from Boryeong to the Daecheon beach area — the centrepiece of the ‘Mud Experience Land’. Many events such as mud wrestling, the mud king contest, the mud fireworks fantasy and the mud sliding competition are held during this festival. This is a festival where you can save yourself some money on a facemask.
That Luang Festival
Another Asian neighbour, Laos, is also a land of many festivals and celebrations. The Lao people have an interesting celebration at the Golden That Luang temple in Vientiane for some three to seven days in November.
Hundreds of Buddhist monks from across the country and beyond will assemble at dawn to receive alms on the first day of the festival. The Lao will carry a colourful candlelit wax castle — tall creations of yellow trees with wax petals—in a procession. This festival also gives the Lao a chance to spend time with their families. Many people living abroad take this chance to come back to Laos.
A traditional picnic for friends and families also takes place after the procession, followed by a traditional game of tikhy, which resembles a hockey game and is played in the afternoon. During the festival period, there will also be a colourful display of fireworks at night, trade fairs, funfairs and concerts.
The three festivals above are some of the many festivals celebrated in Asian countries that I find unique and interesting. We should all appreciate these customs, traditions and festivals of other races, religions and countries. Let’s always celebrate our unity in our diversity!
By Saradha Lakshmi Hariharan, 14, Kuala Lumpur