Southeast Asian Splash

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ALHAMBRA, CA– On Sunday, April 23, the Southern California Burmese Association (SCBA) held its 11th annual Thingyan, the Burmese New Year Celebration. Every year in the middle of April, the Burmese come together to wish good blessings for the new year and have fun by putting on traditional dances, cultural foods, and splash each other with water.

This year, the venue of the Thingyan was San Gabriel High School. It was convenient because everyone knew where it was and the parking was free. Starting at 8:00 AM, set up took place and the performers got ready. SGHS’ auditorium was nice enough to fit the audience too. Later, the food trucks and cooks came to prepare their dishes to sell.

The stage was the center of entertainment while other activities such as playing with water and buying food took place in other areas of the school. First, the president and officers of SCBA spoke, with the Monterey Park mayor and Congresswoman Judy Chu following. In the auditorium, awards were handed out to the winners of the SCBA sport tournaments. The tournaments happen every year in the beginning of February, including badminton, bowling, golf, and table tennis.

Next, the winner of the SCBA Outstanding Youth Award was announced. Those who excel in school, volunteer regularly, and make a difference in the Burmese community are awarded. Afterwards, the cultural dances of Burmese tradition were presented on stage. Dancers and musicians of all ages, from six years old to even eighty years old took

part.

Outside, kids and teenagers were soaking in their clothes as they poured buckets of water on each other and shot with water guns. Splashing water on one another is a Thingyan tradition. It symbolizes the washing away of the old sins and cleanses everyone for the new year.

Because of this unique way to celebrate New Year’s, westerners call it the Water Festival. Several other Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and some parts of China, observe the new year festival. There are different terms for the new year. For example, Burma says Thingyan but Thailand says Songkran. In the end, it’s the same festival from the same calendar. Its roots lie in the religion of Buddhism from ancient times, but over the centuries it has become a cultural and social phenomenon. Lasting one whole week, the water festival is certainly a diverse holiday.

The rest of the event was for  family and friends to catch up and eat different types of Burmese food and drinks they usually can’t eat at home, like sugar cane water and water dessert. The SCBA Thingyan is the only gathering in Southern California, but Northern California is also having a Thingyan in late May. Putting together these cultural festivals brings a lot awareness to the Burmese community.

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