New Year festivities
Dai New Year celebrations, once set by the unpredictable Dai calendar, are now held April 13–16 annually. The first day sees a dragon-boat race on the river, held in honour of a good-natured dragon spirit who helped a local hero outwit an evil king. On the second day everybody in Jinghong gets a good soaking as water-splashing hysteria grips the town, and basinfuls are enthusiastically hurled over friends and strangers alike to wash away bad luck. Manting Park also hosts cockfighting and dancing all day. The finale includes Diu Bao (Throwing Pouches) games, where prospective couples fling small, triangular beanbags at each other to indicate their affection, and there’s a mammoth firework display, when hundreds of bamboo tubes stuffed with gunpowder and good-luck gifts are rocketed out over the river. Nightly carousing and dancing – during which generous quantities of lajiu, the local firewater, are consumed – take place in the parks and public spaces. Look out for the Peacock dance, a fluid performance said to imitate the movements of the bird, bringer of good fortune in Dai lore, and the Elephant-drum dance, named after the instrument used to thump out the rhythm.
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