Khmer New Year in Cambodia

Khmer New Year in Cambodia

In Cambodia, Khmer New Year commemorates the victory of Angkor Wat over the Chams in 1 177. It is also a time to reflect on the past year, make resolutions for the coming year, and pray for the well-being of the people.

For religious beliefs, the twelve angel daughters, each of them taking a turn annually to come to look after people, bless them and receive offerings as well.

People bring food and things to offer to the monks in the pagodas in the morning each day but do not really need to go all three days, so it depends on them. But at the pagodas, there are programs arranged by monks and/or people around the pagoda. 

For family tradition, each family gathering during this time to do religious practices and enjoy time with family and community. Children do cook food and give presents to their parents and other elders if they want. The purpose is also for getting blessings from those elders as they believe also their living gods or Preah Rous.

In Cambodia, the mid of April is chosen to celebrate the new year's days. It's also the occasion when people are free after the harvesting from the previous rainy-season farming. The three days period of celebration usually starts on the 13th or the 14 of April. Also just a few weeks before the rainy season starts again in May.

It's that time of year again! Time to start preparing for Khmer New Year. Here are a few things you can do to get ready:

  1. Home Cleaning and Decoration: Right before the Khmer New Year Days, people start cleaning their homes and creating the decoration in the traditional way. A clean home is for welcoming the new angel to their home.
  2. Family Reunion: Khmer New Year is a time for family gatherings, which means people do whatever they do as a whole or together from going to the pagoda, cooking and eating, traveling, or playing traditional games.
  3. The Three Days at home and from home to Pagoda: Foods are cooked and some offerings are ready. With proper traditional clothes on, people are seen to be quite busy between their home and the pagoda. The monks accept the offering and return with the blessing to the people. Sometimes, there are arranged programs of celebration for youths to enjoy spending time with others, like playing traditional games led by monks or hosts.
  4. The three days at the pagoda: 
  • Day 1 is called Moha Sangkranta, also known as Sangkranta, and is the name of the first day of the New Year celebration. It marks the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. On this day, people dress up and light candles, and burn incense sticks at shrines, where the members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha's teachings by bowing, kneeling, and prostrating themselves three times in front of his image. For good luck, people wash their faces with holy water.
  • The second day of the new year celebration is called Veareak Vanabat. People contribute charity to the less fortunate by helping the poor, servants, homeless, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at monasteries.
  • The third day of the new year celebration is known as Veareak Laeung Sak. On this day, Buddhists wash the buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Bathing the buddha images is a symbolic practice to wash bad actions away like water and clean dirt from household items. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness, and prosperity in life.

Overall views: The whole new year brings family and community together to enjoy the holidays in a traditional way and strengthen their spirits with the expected blessings from Angels, monks, Dhamar, and Buddha. 

The Pre-activities:

  • Coming home
  • Preparation: Houses and Pagodas are cleaned and decorated
  • Food, fruits, clothes, and many other different things are needed to buy beforehand

During the Khmer New Year's days activities:

  • Families cook food and wear proper clothes and bring food to offer at the pagodas.
  • At home, they have meals and enjoy other family activities together.
  • Some people do travel and some prefer to stay home with family and play games and drink, eat and dance
  • Some villages host events where youths are gathered to enjoy music, dance, mini-concert, and play traditional games like Chol Chhoung, Chap Kon Kleng, Bos Angkunh, Leak Kanseng, Bay Khom, and more 
  • Children do bathing for their parents or the elders and asked for a blessing from them. Or
  • At the pagoda, on the third day, there is a tradition where people gather to clean Buddha statues and their parents right after. 
  • On some roads and streets, there are people playing with water and baby powder so even if you drive past, you may get wet and powdered.


Read more about Khmer traditional game

The post-activities

  • Cleaning up and saying goodbye to their family for those who need to return to their workplaces.

 

If you're on holiday in Cambodia during Khmer New Year and you want to join or learn more about local traditions, we recommend:

  • pay respect to the locals and learn about the culture
  • join different activities at the pagodas or in the villages 
  • if you have some local friends, why not spend time with them
  • you can also make donations to older people, people with disabilities, handicaps, sick and poor families, etc.

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