#A to Z Challenge: Khmer New Year

AtoZ April2015Challenge

K is for the Khmer New Year!

Thevadas (Cambodian angels) ushering the New Year of the Goat.

Yes, you read it correctly – this is the third time we are celebrating the new year! The whole Kingdom of Cambodia, as well as Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and other Buddhist countries are celebrating the new year. It is the third time this year that we are celebrating the new year – first was in January 1 (International New Year), followed by another celebration in February 19 (Chinese New Year). Here, and in other Buddhist countries mentioned above, the new year is based on astrological calculations. When the old year ends and the new year begins, is also based on these calculations.

Khmer New Year celebration cartoon by Chhoy D. Archi on FB
Khmer New Year celebration illustration by Chhoy D. Archi, nicked from a friend’s FB wall.
Buddhist wats (temples) are adorned with colourful flags and banners to celebrate the new year.
Buddhist wats (temples) are adorned with colourful flags and banners to celebrate the new year.

In Cambodia, the three-day celebration begins tomorrow, April 14. The first day of the new year is called the Maha Sangkran and, according to Cambodian beliefs, it is the time when new Thevadas, or angels, come down to earth to replace the old ones in watching over the earth. The second day is called the Vanabot, or the day when Cambodians go to the wats or temples, offer charity and give alms to the poor to gain merit. The third day is called Leung Sakk, when Cambodians wash images of the Lord Buddha with scented water.

Khmer New Year holiday rush 2009
Khmer New Year holiday rush 2009

Almost all of the population in Phnom Penh have already gone home to their provinces, as is the tradition, to be with their loved ones and relatives. As expected, taxi and bus fares hiked up to three times the normal price. Still, this didn’t faze travelers as hundreds of taxis and buses packed with excited passengers left Phnom Penh starting last week. I think Filipinos and Cambodians share the same anticipation and excitement, of going home and being with the family for the holidays.

Cambodian traditions
My landlady prepares her family’s offerings to their ancestors to welcome the New Year (2009).

It is a welcome change here in Phnom Penh where the usually busy streets will be quiet and still. But days before the KNY, it was pure madness as almost, if not all, locals descend upon markets to shop enough food stuff to last the celebration period as well as presents to family and relatives. Markets were teeming with shoppers spilling out to the pavements. Imagine how the traffic was like?

Expats, like us, who opted not to go away for the holiday will enjoy the empty, quiet streets of the city. No traffic! It is going to be a great time, really, to be able to ride my bicycle around the city without having to fear about reckless drivers. On the other hand, in the towns, I can imagine the merrymaking and revelry. The Khmer New Year, after all, it is the biggest and the happiest holidays in the Cambodian calendar. There will be lots of food, drinking, and, of course, dancing, too! So expect loud Khmer karaoke clashing in the airwaves as well as lots of traditional games played from today till Thursday, night and day.Oh, and don’t forget the water fights – banned in the city but still a traditional practiced in the towns 🙂

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