In the Western world, New Year’s celebrations take place on January 1st—we make half-hearted resolutions over glasses of champagne. Through most of China, they’re celebrated in the middle of April, with firecrackers are dancing lions.?The Dai ethnic group of southwestern Yunnan Province, meanwhile, has their own three-day New Year’s celebration in April. Their festivities culminate not with spraying champagne or popping explosives, but with a raucous water-fight. This Dai festival begins with two days of Dragon Boat racing. On the third day, head to the local temple to “Bathe the Buddha.” Most people will have on their freshest, nicest clothes as they gather at the temple to ritually purify a statue of the Buddha, tossing pans of water over the effigy.
This signals the beginning of the water-fight; and it’s a free-for all. You could be a tourist, a friend, a neighbor, a family-member, rich or poor—no one is safe. But don’t worry; it’s fun, it’s good natured.
For the Dai, water is purifying. Drenching those around you is one way of extending your goodwill. It’s like saying, “I hope that you have a good year, and (splash)—take that!” – S.K.