Festivals in ASEAN Countries: Celebrating Youth and Culture

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a region celebrated for its rich cultural diversity and vibrancy, with festivals playing a pivotal role in the social and cultural fabric of its communities. These festivals not only showcase the unique traditions and customs of each country but also engage the youth in meaningful and joyous celebrations. Here, we delve into some of the most prominent festivals across ASEAN countries that hold special significance for young people.

Songkran (Thailand)

Songkran, the Thai New Year, is perhaps one of the most famous festivals in Southeast Asia. Celebrated in mid-April, it marks the start of the traditional Thai New Year with a country-wide water fight. For Thai youth, Songkran is a time of fun and revelry, as they take to the streets with water guns and buckets, engaging in playful water battles. The festival also carries a deeper cultural significance, with young people participating in merit-making activities at temples and performing the traditional act of pouring water over the hands of elders to seek their blessings.

Photo from https://sgs.upm.edu.my/article/the_best_ways_to_celebrate_hari_raya_aidilfitri_eid_in_malaysia-78912

Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore)

Hari Raya Aidilfitri, known as Eid al-Fitr in other parts of the world, is a major Islamic festival celebrated at the end of Ramadan. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore, the festival is marked by vibrant celebrations, including feasting, visiting family and friends, and seeking forgiveness. For the youth, it is a time to wear new clothes, enjoy traditional delicacies, and engage in various communal activities. The “open house” tradition, where families invite friends and neighbors regardless of their background, fosters community and inclusivity.

Photo from https://web-holidays.com/blog/2012/02/16/tet-nguyen-dan

Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnam)

Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in Vietnam, falling in late January or early February. For Vietnamese youth, Tet is a time for new beginnings and honoring their heritage. Young people participate in various customs, such as decorating homes with peach blossoms and kumquat trees, making traditional foods like banh chung (square sticky rice cakes), and receiving “li xi” (lucky money) in red envelopes. The festival also features vibrant street parades, lion dances, and fireworks, creating a festive atmosphere that captivates the younger generation.

Photo from https://www.southpolecentralhotel.com/sinulog-festival/

Sinulog (Philippines)

The Sinulog Festival, held every third Sunday of January in Cebu City, Philippines, is one of the country’s largest and most vibrant festivals. It honors the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) and features a grand parade with participants in their colorful costumes, and performing traditional dances to rhythmic drum beats. For Filipino youth, Sinulog is an exhilarating experience, offering a chance to participate in dance competitions, attend concerts, and enjoy street parties. The festival’s mix of religious devotion and lively celebration makes it a unique cultural event that appeals to all ages.

Photo from https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20110823-cave-party-malaysias-thaipusam-festival

Thaipusam (Malaysia, Singapore)

Thaipusam, celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community in Malaysia and Singapore, is a festival dedicated to Lord Murugan. It involves a pilgrimage to temples, most notably the Batu Caves in Malaysia, where devotees carry kavadis (decorative frames) as acts of penance and devotion. For young participants, Thaipusam is a test of endurance and faith, often involving body piercings and carrying heavy burdens. The festival also provides an opportunity for youth to connect with their cultural roots and engage in community service.

Photo from https://pattaya-property.net/what-is-the-loy-krathong-festival-and-what-does-it-celebrate/

Loy Krathong (Thailand)

Loy Krathong, celebrated in November, is a picturesque festival where people release krathongs (decorative floats) onto rivers and lakes to pay respect to the water goddess and seek forgiveness for past transgressions. For Thai youth, Loy Krathong is a romantic and magical event, often associated with making wishes for the future. Many young people participate in beauty contests, dance performances, and krathong-making workshops, contributing to the festival’s enchanting atmosphere.

Photo from https://asean.org/23rd-asean-youth-day-meeting/

ASEAN Youth Day Meeting

The ASEAN Youth Day Meeting (AYDM) is a significant event that brings together young leaders from across the ASEAN region. Held annually, it aims to foster mutual understanding, cooperation, and solidarity among ASEAN youth. The event includes cultural performances, workshops, and dialogues on pressing issues such as sustainability, digital innovation, and regional integration. For participants, AYDM is an invaluable opportunity to network, exchange ideas, and contribute to shaping the future of ASEAN.

Festivals in ASEAN countries are more than just celebrations; they are vital expressions of cultural identity and community spirit. For the youth, these festivals provide a platform to honor traditions, engage in communal activities, and create lasting memories. As the region continues to grow and evolve, these vibrant festivals will undoubtedly remain integral to the cultural fabric of ASEAN, nurturing the next generation’s appreciation for their rich and diverse heritage.


Al Jazeera Media Network. (n.d.). Malaysian Hindus show religious devotion at Thaipusam. https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2024/1/25/malaysian-hindus-show-religious-devotion-at-thaipusam

Asia Society. (n.d.). It’s More Fun in The Philippines: The Sinulog Festival Fever. https://asiasociety.org/philippines/it%E2%80%99s-more-fun-philippines-sinulog-festival-fever

Asian Inspirations. (n.d.). Tet Nguyen Dan: The Vietnamese Lunar New Year. https://asianinspirations.com.au/experiences/tet-nguyen-dan-the-vietnamese-lunar-new-year/

Khalid, C. (2024, April 9). Guide to Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Singapore. TIme Out. https://www.timeout.com/singapore/things-to-do/guide-to-hari-raya-aidilfitri-in-singapore

Public Holidays Global. (n.d.).Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2025, 2026 and 2027.  https://publicholidays.com.my/hari-raya-aidilfitri/

Thailand Foundation. (n.d.). Loy Krathong Festival – All You Need to Know. https://www.thailandfoundation.or.th/culture_heritage/loy-krathong-festival-all-you-need-to-know/

The ASEAN Secretariat. (2019, July 25). 23rd ASEAN Youth Day Meeting. https://asean.org/23rd-asean-youth-day-meeting/

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. (n.d.). Songkran in Thailand, traditional Thai New Year festival. https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/songkran-in-thailand-traditional-thai-new-year-festival-01719

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