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Amazing Khmer New Year

The Khmer New Year (Cambodian New Year) or Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei in local Khmer Language, is one of the major and important holiday in Cambodia. Khmer New Year starts on April the 13th, 14th or the 15th depending on the ancient horoscope and the celebration last for three days.

The Khmer New Year festival has been celebrated annually since Angkor Era and originated from Hinduism, which was a religion that Khmer believed in before Buddhism. Later on, Buddhism became associated with the festival and then took all the important roles in the festivity.

During the days of Khmer New Year, Phnom Penh will be left seemingly pretty quite, most of the Phnom Penh residents will head out to the countryside to celebrate Khmer New Year.

In the villages the people engage in traditional Khmer games, they play games such as the Bas Angkunh ‘seed throwing’, Chaol Chhoung ‘twisted-scarf throwing’, Leak Kanséng ‘twisted-scarf hide’ and dance to traditional Khmer songs.

Khmer New Year

Usually, Khmer New Year is celebrated for three days and it marks the end of the harvest season when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor and relax before the start of the rainy season. Khmer New Year is a good time for Cambodian people to gather with family, friends and their community. It is celebrated throughout Cambodia, also in neighboring countries like Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos and is rooted in Buddhist traditions.

Day 1: Maha Songkran (មហាសង្រ្កាន្ត)

The first day of New Year is called Moha Sangkran, and it can be described simply as the inauguration of the New Angels who come to take care of the world for a one-year period.

Khmer New Year 2011

People need to clean and decorate the house people and put fruit in front of their houses as an offering to the gods. They believe that the new gods will come to take nourishment from the fruits and give their blessings to the home.

Day 2: Vearak Vanabat (វិរ:វ័នបត)

The second day of New Year is called Vearak Wanabot, a day for remembering one’s elders, both living and departed. In the Buddhist temples, Khmer honor their ancestors through a ceremony called bang scole. They also build a mountain of sand in remembrance of the dead. After finishing all religious activities at pagoda, people visit their relatives, give gifts to their parents and elderly, have a nice lunch with them or visit somewhere together.

Day 3: Vearak Loeng Sak (វារៈឡើងស័ក)

The third day is called Vearak Leung Sak and this is the first day of the new year. Traditionally, people would go to the temple to build a dome-shaped stupas of sand to get blessed and the last ceremony is called Pithi Srang Preah, to honor and to give a special cleansing to Buddha Statues, the monks, elders, grandparents and parents.

Khmer New Year is not just the great traditional festival for Cambodians, it can allow Cambodians to build up many unforgettable souvenirs and memories.

Khmer New Year Game

Best places for tourists to celebrate Khmer New Year

Tourists in Cambodia can enjoy or get involved with the festival as the Khmer New year is celebrated throught the country. For visitors staying in Cambodia’s 2 largest cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the New Year experience is likely to be quite different.

In Phnom Penh, the best place to be during the New Year is the temple of Wat Phnom, where the Khmer congregate to play traditional games, watch traditional performances, and throw talcum powder at each other.

In Siem Reap, the tourists will be at the heart of the Angkor Sankranta Festival – Khmer New Year; this festival has taken place in the Angkor Archaeological Park since 2013. It is three days full of events, shows, ceremonies, activities, games, food and drink all set around the stunning Angkor Temples.

Safety for Khmer New Year

Khmer New Year was a really friendly, great festival to be a part of, but due to alcohol intake, increase traffic on road, the sites crowded with people it can also be:

  1. Dangerous on the roads, accidents caused by people swerving or being surprised by water attacks when on their motos or cycles. The combination of water and talcum powder also makes the road surface slippery resulting in skidding and crashes, especially when mixed with speeding and drink driving.
  2. Increasing in opportunistic pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially in crowds. There’s probably not much chance of it happening but to be on the safe side You should be well aware of that.
Khmer New Year in Siem Ream at Angkor Thom
Khmer New Year in Siem Ream at Angkor Thom

Note: Most of the cities are deserted during this time of year, as Khmer travel to their hometowns to celebrate the New Year with their loved ones. Most services shut down altogether. But if you want to see the local color of the holidays, visit the pagodas—but don’t forget to follow the basic rules of pagoda etiquette.

Related article: Cambodia Independence Day

Summary

What is Khmer New Year?

The Khmer New Year or Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei is one of the important holiday in Cambodia. Khmer New Year starts on April the 13th, 14th or the 15th, which coincides with the end of the harvesting season. depending on the ancient horoscope and the celebration last for three days.

How is Khmer New Year celebrated?

The Khmer mark their New Year with purification ceremonies, visits to temples, and playing traditional games. At home, people do their spring cleaning and put fruit in front of their houses as an offering to the gods. At the temples, people bring food, desserts, and other everyday items to appease their deceased ancestors.

How Long Does the Khmer New Year Festival Last?

Khmer New Year is celebrated for three whole days, the first day of New Year is called Moha Sangkran, the second day of New Year is called Vearak Wanabot and the third day is called Vearak Leung Sak.

What is Maha Songkran?

The first day of New Year is called Moha Sangkran, and it can be described simply as the inauguration of the New Angels who come to take care of the world for a one-year period. People need to clean and decorate the house people and put fruit in front of their houses as an offering to the gods.

What is Virak Vanabat?

The second day of New Year is called Vearak Wanabot, a day for remembering one’s elders, both living and departed. In the Buddhist temples, Khmer honor their ancestors through a ceremony called bang scole.

What is Vearak Loeng Sak?

The third day is called Vearak Leung Sak and this is the first day of the new year. Traditionally, people would go to the temple to build a dome-shaped stupas of sand to get blessed and the last ceremony is called Pithi Srang Preah, to honor and to give a special cleansing to Buddha Statues, the monks, elders, grandparents and parents.

Where is the best place for tourists to celebrate Khmer New Year?

Tourists in Cambodia can enjoy or get involved with the festival as the Khmer New year is celebrated throughout the country. For visitors staying in Cambodia’s 2 largest cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the New Year experience is likely to be quite different.

Is it safe for tourist to join khmer new year?

1.Dangerous on the roads, accidents caused by people swerving or being surprised by water attacks when on their motos or cycles.
2.Increasing in opportunistic pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially in crowds. There’s probably not much chance of it happening but to be on the safe side You should be well aware of that.

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