This morning at the bus stop, an elderly Caucasian woman came up to me and cheerily exclaimed"Gung Hay Fat Choy!" I explained to her that I am actually of Japanese descent.
It happens every year. And it's understandable, considering how sizeable Vancouver's Chinese Canadian population is.
What many people don't realize (even moreso than the fact that not every Asian Canadian is Chinese) is that the myriad of Asian cultures celebrate different New Year festivities at varying times of the year.
It'd actually be erroneous to say "Asian New Year" since there isn't one unified celebration all at one time. Some Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year. Some celebrate the Western New Year. Some officially recognize both as public holidays. And some welcome the new year in spring.
Here's a quick rundown of New Year celebrations in East and South East Asia.
LUNAR AND WESTERN NEW YEAR
Indonesia: they have traditionally celebrated Western New Year but due to their large Chinese population, they now also recognize Chinese New Year as an official holiday
Malaysia: Chinese New Year is a national holiday. Western New Year is a public holiday with the exception of some states.
Singapore: both Chinese and Western New Year are public holidays
WESTERN NEW YEAR
Japan: Japan used to celebrate lunar new year but this was changed in 1873 when Japan adopted the solar calendar. Japanese New Year (O-Shogatsu) is held on January 1 but is a multiday celebration with traditions different from the West.
SPRING NEW YEAR
In some of these countries, Chinese New Year is celebrated but is not a public holiday
Thailand: Songkran (April 13-16), plus Western New Year is also a public holiday
Laos: Bpee Mai, Pi Mai Lao, or Songkran (April 13), celebrated in addition to Western New Year and Chinese New Year as public holidays
Cambodia: Khmer New Year or Chaul Chnam Thmey (April 14-16), plus Western New Year is also a public holiday
Nepal: Bisket Jatra (April 13)
Myanmar (Burma): Thingyan (April 13 to 17)
You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.