Theravada is a school of Buddhism that uses the Pali Canon, Buddhism’s oldest texts, as the core of its practice. This branch of Buddhism is dominant in certain countries such as: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand while remaining a minority in others like: Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, and Nepal. Theravada is sometimes referred to as southern Buddhism. Theravada Buddhists believe their practice to be the closest to the teachings of the Buddha. They believe that we as humans must push for self liberation through deep meditation and studying the Buddha’s teachings.
In Theravada Buddhism the new year is celebrated for three whole days starting from the first full moon in April. Throughout time the New Years celebrations have transformed and each country has their own unique traditions. Similar to many other religious holidays, Theravada New Year is celebrated with a variety of traditional celebrations in addition to more contemporary counterparts. Perhaps the most famous of the contemporary celebrations is the famous water fight in Thailand.
Amongst the more traditional methods of celebration are a more subdued use of water. In Buddhism water symbolizes purity so it takes an important role in celebrating the New Year. It is used symbolically to wash away sins. People not only wash themselves but also their houses, statues, and temples. In Thailand it is customary to sprinkle water lightly on Buddha statues.
In Burma and Laos it is not uncommon to see people buy live fish and birds in order to release them into the wild. This is meant to emphasize the importance of compassion for all living things, one of the fundamental teachings in Buddhism. One of the most important things to cherish during the New Year is family, friends, and all loved ones. Some countries such as Thailand even extended the holiday in order to give families more time to celebrate with each other.