Celebrating the traditional new year

Khmer New Year school celebrations, Kandal province, Cambodia

April 14th marked the start of the new year for many countries in South and Southeast Asia and communities around the world. Hear from some of our team members in Cambodia on their celebrations and how they recently welcomed the Khmer New Year. 

Men Samnang

Field Communications Officer

Khmer New Year starts on April 13th or 14th of the year. It is a beautiful ceremony celebrated as Khmer traditional culture. Over three days of celebration, I meet beloved people in my family and community. Obviously, Khmer New Year is the happiest event allowing me and everyone else to pray for good luck and fortune in the year ahead. I can also express my special care, love, and gratitude to my parents, relatives, and beloved persons. Khmer New Year ceremony lasts for three days. The first day is called Mohasangkran: I will prepare some kinds of fruits and drinks for the god of the new year as I believe that the god angel will accept my prepared stuff and then she will bless my family. The second day is called Virak Vanabat: I will visit my relatives, will give gifts to my parents and old people in the family and community. I will also have meals with my family members. The third day is Vearak Loeng Sak: I will participate in bathing statues of Buddha, my parents and old relatives in the family with water blessed by monks. That is called “Srong Preah”. This is a traditional way for people to respect our Buddha, parents and old relatives, to wish them longevity, and to ask them for forgiveness of what I had done wrong to them in the past. Over the three days, I will also bring food and flowers for monks to dedicate to all my ancestors and relatives who have passed away.

Hom Sreng

Program Officer

Khmer New Year is the name of the third day of the new year celebration. It is also known as Choul Chnam Thmey and Moha Sangkranta or just Sangkranta, and is the traditional celebration of the solar new year in Cambodia. Three days of our celebration are public holidays.The observance begins on New Year's Day, usually falling around April 13-15, which is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labour before the rainy season begins. As we are Buddhists, we wash the Buddha statues and our elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is a symbolic practice to wash bad actions away like water clean dirt from household items. On the first day of Khmer New Year Cambodia, people prepare required fruit in front of their houses as an offering to the gods. We believe that the new gods will come to take nourishment from the fruits and give their blessings to the home. Before and during the New Year’s Days, people who live in Cambodia always play traditional Khmer games such as Bos Ang Kunh, Chol Chhong, Chab Kon Kleng, Sdach Chong, and Teanh Prot. These are popular games celebrated early about a month before the arrival of the new year and are even more popular in pagodas and villages.

Kob Romly

IT Support & Admin Officer

The traditional Khmer New Year festival lasts for three days. Determining the month, day, hour, and minute when the old year expires and the New Year deity comes down to take over from the old year deity. There is always a New Year deity change every year, each deity always has a different name and different tastes. On Khmer New Year’s Days, people bring food for the monks and traditionally conduct religious practice at the pagoda. Children usually give clothes, cakes, food, money to parents, grandparents and the poor or servants. In the afternoon, they go to the sand dunes again and pray for the sand dunes, which are supposed to be like the Cholamani Stupa, and invite the monks to send the stupas to bring good fortune to the souls of their dead relatives. In the morning, the monks cross the sand mountain. In the evening, the monks fetch water and pick up the Buddha image (according to the custom of some districts). In addition to the above-said religious ceremonies, people enjoy playing a lot of fun and popular games such as throwing darts, pulling a rope, hiding a towel, catching a kite and dancing in a circle, as well as a traditional dance. Personally, I, as a Muslim, do not attend religious ceremonies with monks, as mentioned above. Although I did not attend religious services like the Buddhists, I do participate in popular games with the general public and take time off to visit family members.

Video: one of our Plus students, Cambodia, speaking about Khmer New Year. 

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