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Monday, July 22, 2024

Days Off in ASEAN: Which is the Most Holiday-Friendly Nation

This Week

As the festival season approaches, people across Southeast Asia are looking forward to spending quality time with family and unwind.

But, when it comes to time off from work, not everyone will enjoy the same amount of leisure time.

Here’s the ranking of ASEAN nations from the least to the most generous in terms of public holidays.

Vietnam (13 Days)
Vietnam, renowned for its ancient cities and UNESCO World Heritage locations, offers its citizens 13 days of public holidays. The “Tet Holiday”, also known as the Vietnamese New Year according to the Lunisolar calendar, is the longest celebration in Vietnam spanning five days. It is normally celebrated at the end of January or in early February. The dates of this holiday change annually.

“Tet is the most important [Holiday],” said Ngoc Linh, a 23-year-old Vietnamese woman from Hanoi. “We usually go to relatives’ houses and chat about each other’s old years as well as wishing them luck for the new year. We also give children and elders lucky money. There will be cherry blossoms or kumquats in our house during Tet.”

Other major holidays in Vietnam include Labor Day on 1 May, the Hung Kings temple festival on 29 April (changes every year), and Vietnam’s national day on 2 September.

Laos (14 Days)
Laos, a picturesque landlocked country celebrated for its breathtaking natural beauty and its role as the primary hydropower exporter in ASEAN, counts a total of 14 days of public holidays throughout the year.

Among these, the Lao New Year, also known as Pi Mai Lao, stands out. This vibrant celebration spans three consecutive days, typically occurring on 14, 15, and 16 April and is a time of joyous festivities across the country.

Laos, like Vietnam, observes National Labor Day on the 1 May, honoring the contributions of its workforce.

“It feels like a reward as a worker, I get an extra day off without feeling bad about my unfinished tasks or not answering any work-related messages,” said Dokfa Malaithong, a 22-year-old woman of Vientiane Capital, Laos, explaining why the National Labor Day is her favorite holiday.

Another noteworthy date on the Lao calendar is the National Day, celebrated on the 2 December to commemorate a crucial moment in the nation’s history.

Malaysia and Singapore (15 Days)
Malaysia offers its citizens a total of 15 public holidays. The country’s most significant celebrations are Independence Day, observed annually on 31 August, and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a major three-day Muslim holiday.

Malaysian citizens also celebrate around 21-23 April with festive gatherings, special prayers, and delicious feasts at the end of the month-long fasting (Ramadan). Additionally, Malaysians have days off on Chinese New Year, Malaysia Day – on 16 September, and Wesak Day – on 4 May, which commemorates the Buddha’s birth.

“On Hari Raya Aidilfitri, I’m up early in the morning, all dressed up and ready to roll – the mission? Visiting distant relatives and spending quality time with family,” said Fethullah, a 17-year old Malaysian boy from the state of Selangor. “It’s a marathon of a day, starting early and often stretching late into the night. Those journeys to visit distant folks? Man, they can knock you out! But here’s the cool part – at every stop, there’s this tradition of dishing out delicious cookies and sweets. It’s like a sweet pit stop in every home!”

Singapore, Malaysia’s neighboring country, shares the same number and two public holidays with its neighbor. Both nations celebrate Chinese New Year and Wesak Day on the same dates. However, Singapore’s Independence Day falls on 9 August.

Also, Singapore observes unique holidays such as Deepavali, the Hindu festival of lights on 12 November, and Good Friday on 7 April, and Hari Raya Puasa on 22 April. These holidays contribute to both nations’ rich tapestry patterns and cultural and religious diversity.

“The biggest national holiday for me and my family is Hari Raya Puasa that for us Muslims arrives after a month of fasting,” said Emmy Abdul Alim, 50, a resident of Singapore City in Singapore. “It’s a much-anticipated holiday and celebrated with far too much food, new clothes and visiting family and friends. For most of us busy people in Singapore, it is one of the only times of the year we get to see our entire extended family!”

Brunei (17 Days)
Brunei, the independent Islamic sultanate located on the northern coast of Borneo in Southeast Asia, grants its citizens a total of 17 public holidays. Among these, four days are dedicated to the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri Holiday, widely known as the “Festival of Breaking Fast,” marking the conclusion of Ramadan. Other significant holidays include Brunei National Day, celebrated on 23 February, and Royal Armed Forces Day, observed on 31 May.

Cambodia and the Philippines (20 Days)
Cambodia observes 20 public holidays, including the three-day celebration of Khmer New Year from 14-16 April, where water splashing rituals for purification resemble those in Thailand and Laos. Other notable dates on the calendar include Cambodia’s National Day on 9 November, the King’s Birthday on 14 May, and the King’s Mother’s celebration on 18 June. Moreover, Constitutional Day, commemorating the country’s transition to a constitutional monarchy in 1993 is observed annually on 24 September.

The Philippines, an archipelagic nation in Southeast Asia, counts 20 public holidays every year. Among the notable dates are New Year’s Day on 2 January, the archipelagic country’s celebration on 23 February, the Philippines’ National Day on 12 June, and Ninoy Aquino Day on 21 August. The calendar also includes All Saints Day, spanning from 1-2 November, Bonifacio Day on 27 November, and Immaculate Conception Day on 8 December.

“My favorite holiday is pretty cliché but it’s New Year. Aside from the mesmerizing fireworks and lighting, new years are somehow treated as a new chapter or beginning of our lives.” said Alisa Matarong, a 21-year-old Filipino woman from Kawit, Cavite, The Philippines.

Thailand (22 Days)
Nestled in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand boasts a generous offering of 22 public holidays. Among the most prominent are the three-day festivities of Thai New Year (Songkran), celebrated from 13-15 April, akin to the traditions in Laos and Cambodia.

“The first day is all about an all-out water fight [for fun] – the ultimate festival day,” said Pratchaya Khunsee, a 24-year old Thai man and a resident of Chiang Mai Province, describing his favorite holiday “On day two, it’s about getting some good deeds – you’ll find folks heading to the temple, filling sand piles, and doing those traditional religious things. And on the third day, it’s family time! We all trek back to the elders’ place, showering them with respect, and getting some wishes granted”

Other noteworthy occasions include Coronation Day on 4-5 May, H.M Queen’s Birthday on 3 June, and H.M King’s Birthday on 28 June, Visakha Bucha Day, commemorating significant events in Buddha’s life, on 5 June, Chulalongkorn Day on 23 October, and Thai Constitution Day on 10 December.

Myanmar and Indonesia (27 Days)
Myanmar, ranked as one of the top two countries in ASEAN for the highest number of public holidays, generously offers its citizens 27 days off. Among these, an extensive 8-day celebration from 10-17 April is dedicated to the Thingyan Holiday, reminiscent of Thailand and Cambodia’s Songkran, marked by lively water-splashing festivities.

“During this festive period, people of all ages and religious backgrounds come together to splash water on one another using water containers, hoses, and water guns in the streets,” said Aye Thuzar Aung, a Burmese university student told The Laotian Times,” “This act symbolizes cleansing and the removal of sins and bad luck from the previous year.”

“During Thingyan, there are some donations of traditional Burmese snacks and dishes on the streets for everyone to enjoy,” Aye added.

Noteworthy dates also include Burmese National Day on 4 January, Union Day on 12 February, Peasant Days on 2 March, and the Full Moon Day of Tabaung on 5 March.
Indonesia, matching Myanmar’s generous allocation of 27 public holidays, features an extensive 7-day-celebration from 29-25 April for Hari Raya Puasa, marking the conclusion of Ramadan.

The Indonesian calendar also includes Indonesian National Day on 17 August, commemorating the country’s independence, Pancasila Day on 1 June, dedicated to the nation’s foundational principles, Muharram Day on 19 June, observing the Islamic New Year, and Christmas on 25-26 December.

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