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March 11: The Balinese Day of Silence



One of the pleasures of traveling in ASEAN is that people here celebrate New Year in many ways on so many days. Some countries may use different calendars to mark the start of the year. Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos New Year are celebrated in April. Many Muslims celebrate the new year on 1 Muharram, the first day of the first month of the Muslim calendar. Others observe their new year in January. Many ASEAN people also celebrate the Spring festival, the Chinese New Year, which the date is based on the Chinese lunar calendar.

   

Nyepi has been observed for centuries and marks the Balinese New Year, which falls on the day after the dark moon of the spring equinox based on a Hindu soli-lunar calendar. The date changes each year. Nyepi 2024 will start on Monday, March 11 at 6 a.m. and will end on Tuesday, March 12 at 6 a.m. 


The Thai New Year, Songkran, is celebrated in Thailand and other parts of ASEAN. People splash water on each other to symbolize the blessing, rinsing away bad luck with holy water for a happy life. Water splashing is central to all because water, the symbol of holiness, goodness, and purity. It is a festival of purification.

  

Surprisingly, the Balinese celebrate their new year in silence. It is a day of self-reflection, fasting, and abstaining from worldly pleasures. Most people on the Indonesian island of Bali follow an ancient form of Hinduism, brought from India centuries ago; and their new year, Nyepi, is based on a Hindu soli-lunar calendar. (Most other Balinese festivals follow a repeating 210-day cycle that has no connection to either the solar or the lunar year.) On Nyepi eve there is a lively festival, when people walk in procession, accompanied by gamelan music, to the main crossroads of their village. There they perform an exorcism ceremony to drive away evil, symbolized by huge monster-like paper-and-bamboo figurines. But on Nyepi itself, everything is silent. All over the island, the streets are deserted. No fires are lit, no food is cooked, no music is played, and radios and televisions are turned off. It is forbidden to leave one’s house, to make love, or to talk more than necessary. Everyone welcomes the new year in silence, with reverent self-control.

 

So, if you find yourself in Bali during Nyepi, embrace the silence, soak in the spiritual energy, and let the magic of this unique celebration fill your heart with joy and tranquility. Nyepi is not just a day; it's an experience that will leave you with memories of a lifetime! 


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