Khmer New Year 2550

In Cambodia, Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival, and also it is the greatest national holiday because it is three days of festival and sometimes can be four days. Khmer New Year begins on April 13th or can be on April 14th, depending on the "MohaSangkran," which is the ancient horoscope.

In fact, Khmer New Year originally began on the first day of the first month in lunar calendar, which can be in November or the beginning of December.

In the Angkor Era, the 13th Century, the Khmer King, either “Suriyavaraman II” or “Jayavaraman VII”, was the one who changed the New Year to the fifth month of the lunar calendar, in April by the solar calendar. 95% of Khmer population is farmer, and the period from November through March is the busiest season for Khmer farmers to reap or harvest the crops from the rice fields.

Khmer people can find free time in April because there is no rain, and it is very hot, so Khmer farmers have the time to take vacation after they have worked very hard to gather the rice crops from their rice fields to get their income.

Therefore, April is the right time for Khmer in Cambodia to celebrate New Year. The Khmer New Year festival originated from “Bramhmanism”, a part of 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.

Usually, Khmer New Year is celebrated for three days:

The first day of New Year (Year 2550 of the Buddhist calendar) is called as “Moha Sangkran”, and it can be described simply as the inauguration of the New Angels who come to take care the world for a one-year period.

This year is the year of Dog (Chor), and “Moha Sangkran” of the New Year will begin on April 14th at 06: 48 AM. The leader of Angels is named “KimireaDevi”.

People need to clean and decorate the house and also prepare fruits and drinks for the New Year inauguration and to welcome the New Angels at every single home.

Cambodian families would traditionally prepare a table garnished with varieties of flowers (The lotus flower is a special favourite), different kinds of fruits and other sacred objects to welcome the new "Tevada" (Guarding Angel) who replaces the previous.

At every of the more than 3,000 pagodas across the country, the sound of ancient drums usher in the New Year at the precise moment to signal the beginning of this solemn occasion. The drumbeats prompted Buddhists to light joss sticks and candles giving thanks and to welcome the new "Tevada". While the children were snuggled in their beds, adult Cambodians were busy praying and going about the whole ushering process.

Actually, in the morning at the first day of New Year, most Khmer people prepare food to offer the monks at Khmer temple to get blessed. Elderly people like to meditate or pray the Dharma at that time because they believe that any angel who comes to their houses at that time will stay with them and take care of their family for the whole year.

For their parts, State leaders read New Year messages to welcome the New Year and extended good wishes to their countrymen wishing each and everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous Year of the Dog. It is the day when the sun enters a new sign of the zodiac.

There were many interesting moments during the Khmer New Year celebrations. People would pray to their ancestors and ceremoniously wash statues or figurines of the Buddha to receive blessings of happiness and good health. This is also believed to gain merits for curing skin diseases and to ensure beauty in the next reincarnation.

In the afternoon, people gathered around five small mounts of rice grains neatly staked in the center and each took turn to throw a handful of rice grains to the base of the five small mountains of rice grains.

The mountains of rice grains symbolize the footprints that the Buddha left in five different locations. The first grains of rice are offered that same morning to monks who would traditionally plant a series of bamboo sticks draped with sacredly decorated paper, light joss sticks and spray sanctified perfume over the rice mounts. This ceremony is believed to be necessary if one wishes to have a happy life.

Unlike the folks in the capital city, local inhabitants in the regions of the Siem Reap, Battambang and Pursat provinces followed a different tradition. There, people performed a particular dance known as " The Troddi ".

Troddi performers dance and ask for alms from house to house in their village. A man will ride on a long curved stick with a deer's head on one side and with a cluster of grass on the other side like the deer's tail. Two men pretend to be hunters and are armed with a crossbow. When they receive alms they will donate it for the benefit of the local pagoda.

In the province of Kandal and in particular the villages located along the revering areas of the mighty Mekong, people have yet another form of celebration. There, they organized boat races to usher in the New Year.

Women gather to rowboats in front of the pagodas. This action is believed to appease the crocodiles. This custom originated long ago when many crocodiles lived in the river. In some villages, people trample on effigies to appease the ghosts that live in the trees near the pagodas and ask for happiness in the coming year. In the past 30 years, "Dating" did not exist in Cambodia.

There were of course the traditional visits to pagodas, prayers and so forth, but generally the atmosphere is very different in the provinces and Phnom Penh.

The second day of New Year is called as "Wanabot", which means day of offering gifts to the parents, grandparents and elders. Usually, Khmer People like to share gifts or presents to employees and also donate money or clothes to poor people. In the evening, people go to temple to build a mountain of sand and ask the monks to give them a blessing of happiness and peace.

From this day, elderly people visited the pagodas to enjoy traditional music played by an orchestra known as the " Pin Peat ". While at the pagoda, they made offerings to monks and prayed for the souls of their ancestors. It is a great time for boys and girls to play traditional games together such as Bos Angkunh, Chol Chhoung, … or tug-of-water etc. at the temple or any fields or playground in their village because it is only at the New Year time that boys and girls are allowed to play or to get together.

The most popular dance was still the "Roam Vong" although they performed other folklore and popular dances day in and day out and sometimes into the wee hours of the night as well.

Also it is a wonderful time for single people to search for the special partner to get married in the future. In some provinces, they play the game of marriage. The groom and the bride come from the same district or sometimes from the difference location. Their parents and relatives join this ceremony and bless them. After marriage, the couple could decide to live together or not.

The third day is called as day of "Leung Sakk;" that means the year starts to be counted up from this day, for example the year of 2006 begins to be 2007, the year of 2549 BC becomes 2550 BC...etc. Traditionally, in the morning, we used to go to the temple or pagoda to perform the ceremony of the mountain of sand to get blessed.

The children take to the streets to drench passers-by with water. People on the receiving end took the drenching in good spirit and generally enjoyed it as much as the children who did it out of mischief more than the well-intended blessings the symbolic cleansing which the throwing of water is meant to be.


In the evening, to complete the New Year festival, our Khmer people need to perform the last ceremony, called as "Pithi Srang Preah", which means giving a special bath or a special shower to Buddha statues, the monks, elders, parents, grand parents to apologize for any mistake we have done to them and to gratify them.

Every one must have a wonderful time during this ceremony because it is a great opportunity for every one, young and old, man and woman to have much fun by spreading out water to each other.

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

Reference :
- Classe préparatoire de RULE (Royal University of Law and Economy)


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