Quiet Chinese New Year Ordered by Governor

Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara has banned all explosives during the upcoming three-day Chinese New Year festival, saying they constitute a health and noise hazard.

The Chinese New Year, known to the Vietnamese as Tet Nguyen Dau, begins this year on Saturday, the first day of the lunar calendar.

It is normally a quiet holiday anyway: a time for relatives to come together, to bring luck to themselves and to pay respects to their ancestors. Families have reunions and burn li xi, or lucky money, and spend most of the first day trying not to bring bad luck on themselves.

It is only on the night before the first day that much noise is made. Traditionally, this means the use of firecrackers, drums and other noise-makers to invite good spirits into the home, ac­cording to interviews with local Chinese and Vietnamese officials. But a recent municipal directive banning firecrackers may result in less merry making.

The Chinese embassy was planning only a small reception Tuesday to celebrate, with no fireworks planned, said first secretary Wu Qing­sheng. The Viet­namese Embassy had no plans, “unfortunately,” said Chu Dong Loc, embassy presse attache.

Indeed, to experience some of the New Year traditions, like the dragon dance—where revelers costumed as a giant dragon dance for money, food, and luck—one has to rely on finding a private business or family that is sponsoring the event, according to Yum Sui Sang, a prominent Chinese businessman in Phnom Penh. He said that even though there is a ban, fireworks were still “possible” for some people.


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