Of all the annual festivals of the Thao, the Harvest Festival is the most important. For the Thao, this is their New Year. Consequently, the Thao have two New Year celebrations a year. One is during their Harvest Festival, and the other is the Lunar New Year celebrated by the Han Chinese.
The traditional New Year is held on the last evening of the seventh lunar month. The tribespeople go to their leader (Sinawanan)'s home to perform the “Sounds of Pestle”, and thus declare the beginning of the Harvest Festival. This is the most distinguishing feature of the Thao culture. The pestles used in the “Sounds of Pestle” ceremony are made of different thicknesses and weights. Each person uses the pestles to pound the stones according to different rhythms, creating the sounds of different notes. The pestle sounds result in different rhythms, and accompany bamboo tubes of differing sizes. The tinkling sound of the pestle added to the resonance of the bamboo tube forms the prelude to the Thao New-Year-welcome.
For the Thao, the traditional first day of the New Year takes place on the first day of the seventh lunar month. A kind of water plant known as “Saqulh” is placed next to the doors of every household to ward off evil. At 9:00 in the morning, every household takes an “ancestral spirits basket” and small container of glutinous rice to the ritual area. The female shamans hold about one hour of preliminary New Year's sacrifices. They then go from door-to-door, using the “ancestral spirits basket” of each household to perform rituals. The men hold a blessing ceremony known as “TitiSin”. They then conduct a village conference, to elect a person to officiate the ritual. During the evening of the first day of the lunar New Year, the people pray for blessings by drinking wine. This ceremony, known as “Tuktuk” in the Thao language, involves going from house-to-house, and continues until the third day of the lunar month. Through this ceremony, the tribespeople experience communication among each other. During this happy occasion, they not only extol the virtues of the ancestors, but are able to celebrate the significance of the Thao New Year.
On the second day of the eighth lunar month, a hunting ceremony and prayer ceremony is held, where people pray for hunting gains. The following day, a teeth-chiseling ceremony is held, in which the ancestral spirits are asked to protect the youth who are participating in this ceremony, and to allow them to grow up peacefully. The fourth day of the eighth lunar month is “Build an Ancestral Spirit House” day. From the fifth to the eleventh day, the tribespeople stand in front of the ancestral spirit house, and hold a ceremony that includes praying, singing, and dancing. The Thao Harvest Festival emphasizes the themes of ethics and morality, life, skills, religion, faith ceremonies, and wisdom. Under the protection of the ancestral spirits, the people can obtain peace, health, and affluence.