Entering the Year of the dog

CHINESE New Year is around the corner, and people are getting ready to celebrate this unique event, also known as the Spring Festival, in Phuket and around the world. Phuket having a strong heritage from China, especially at the time the island was a giant tin mine, is expecting a large influx of Chinese tourists during the celebration, which starts on Friday, February 16 to end on the 26 of the same month.

The legend speaks of a deity that goes by the name of Nian, who would appear every year and devour children and destroy villagers’ houses to appease his anger. The villagers would run and hide in a nearby forest for the night, only to come back to their village and see the aftermath they thought they couldn’t avoid. One year, an old man decided to stay and fight back the creature. He started to place red papers everywhere in the village and used loud firecrackers to scare the beast away.

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To the surprise of all the villagers, it actually worked, and Nian didn’t have the opportunity to do any damage to their houses, nor was he able to eat anyone. From that moment onward, people dressed in red and decorate their house with red lanterns, while using firecrackers to scare away his spirit.

Today, Chinese New Year is the occasion for families and friends to gather around a reunion dinner and to exchange hong bao, small red envelops that contains an even amount of money (even numbers bring good luck in Chinese culture, especially the number eight). Other gift items include orange, mandarins, chocolate and sweets.

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If you are looking for a place to celebrate Chinese New Year in Phuket, you are in luck, as literally every hotels and restaurants will have specials on their menus during those days.

Additionally, you can visit Phuket Old Town during Feb 16-18 to take part in the official festivities from the local tourism office, which has combined the Chinese New Year festival with the Old Phuket Festival. Granted, the traffic will be a mess, so make sure to park your vehicle not too close to Phuket Road and have a lovely stroll throughout the old town, that will be specially decorated for the occasion.

By Nattha Thepbamrung