Cambodian New Year lasts 3 days (April 13 to 15 every year). During these days, people often go to pagodas to pray for a peaceful and prosperous new year. They offer fresh flowers and other offerings to the pagoda and listen to prayers from early morning, then conduct the Buddha bathing ceremony and place flags on the sandy stupa. After that, they flock to the streets and splash water over each other to welcome the New Year, which is similar to the wishes for good luck.
Chol Chnam Thmay – Cambodian New Year
According to Cambodian astrologers and customs, at this time, a god in black dress sitting on a horse will stop in the Cambodian capital to protect the people in the new year. Before the arrival of the New Year, people usually put a table in front of the house with 11 kinds of fruit and candles to worship this deity.
From the temples to the roads leading to the Royal Palace are covered with the bustling atmosphere and bright lights. The local people and visitors enthusiastically participate in the festivities.
The most outstanding features of the traditional Cambodian New Year are the bewitching Apsara dances, along with traditional food bringing typical Khmer flavors accompanied by palm wine. Coming to Cambodia on this occasion, you will have the opportunity to admire the magnificent Angkor, the ancient city of Angkor Wat with immeasurably high towers. After the festival of splashing water in the morning, all the people can admire the stunning sunset on the top of Bakheng hill and enjoy the Khmer traditional music at night.
Three official holidays
Three official holidays are conducted in a fun atmosphere.The first day is called Mahasangkran. On this day, at the good time (usually at 7 am or 5 pm), people bring offerings including incense and fruits to the pagoda to conduct Mohasangkran ceremony. Mohasangkran is placed in the tray that has the red lacquer trimmed with gold, then carried around the main shrine on a palanquin. Then, all the people come in the shrine to give the offerings to Buddha and chant for the New Year.
The second day is the offering rice ceremony and Sand Mounding ceremony (Poon Phnom Khsach). On this day, every Khmer family offers rice to the monks at the pagoda in the morning and at noon. It is seen as an indispensable ceremony. Before eating, monks chant praying to those who made the food, who brought the food to the temple. After eating, the monks continue chanting to wish for the people to get better. In the afternoon, the people celebrate the ceremony to build sandy mountains to pray for good lucks and chances in love. They will create small mountains from sand in eight directions with a mountain in the center, representing the universe. This custom is related to the long-standing legend that expresses the desire for the rain and the luck.
The third day is the ceremony of bathing Buddha statues and monks. On this day, after offering breakfast to the monks, they continued to listen to the sermon. In the afternoon, they burn incense, make offerings and bring perfumed water to bathe the Buddha statue, which shows the gratitude to the Buddha and cleanses all the bad things during the old year. Then, they bathe the senior monks and take them the cemetery, the tombs or the stupas carrying remains and celebrate a mass for the peace of the souls of the dead.
During the three days, the Khmer people visit each other, wish each other to attain good fortune, health and prosper. In the evening, people often hold many fun activities such as burning sky lantern. Old people tell old fairy tales, myths and stories to their children. Boys and girls are often involved in the tug of war, wrestling and racing. Others perform ramvong dance, drum dance, aday songs and roban. The fun atmosphere covers the whole country. This period of time may last more than a week before the locals start their daily life.
Besides visiting the scenery or enjoy Cambodia cuisine, this is really a good occasion for you to learn more about the Cambodian cultures.