If you are living or traveling through Cambodia you probably already noticed that this week things are a little bit different. Many shops and businesses are closed, the majority of local people traveling to their provinces and a general festival mood with everyone preparing to party. Yes, that’s true, the Khmer New Year is coming so, as in Khmer they say, sousday chnam thmei!
Depending on the Buddhist calendar, which follows the moon instead of the sun like the Western calendar, the new year’s eve falls normally on 13 or 14 of april, being the end of the harvesting season and with the farmers having a bit more money to spend on celebrations. Now we are entering the year 2561 (remember that this calendar is related to Buddha’s birth instead of Christ’s birth) which is also considered the year of the rooster. It consists on three days of celebration where Cambodian people don’t refrain to party hard, eat and drink a lot, and put on their unique smiles even more than they usually do!
And let the feast begin.
On the first day people usually clean their homes and light candles and incense, believing they need to welcome some sort of angels into their homes, in the second day the focus is on giving charity to the poor and exchanging gifts between family members, with the last day being about cleaning Buddha statues with water and using flowers to decorate them, with the children typically washing their parents feet as a sign of respect. The belief is that the water used to clean the statues becomes holy and, similarly to Thai’s Songkran and Burmese’s Thingyan, is used to sprinkle on other people for blessing. More exactly to other people’s faces in the morning, chests at noon and feet in the evening. Nevertheless even if it’s the traditional thing to do is still not the huge event like the Thai or Burmese festivals, where the streets become full of people throwing water in massive “water fights” (although in Pub street in Siem Reap it’s becoming usual to have something similar, but mainly done by tourists and expats). Besides all this, during these days Cambodian people dress nicely and visit pagodas or shrines to pay homage to their ancestors. Other tradition is kralan, a cake made of rice, beans and coconut, roasted inside bamboo sticks and enjoyed as a snack.
So, after giving you some context about this holiday, we wish you a happy new year and hope you enjoy traveling or even the quietness of Phnom Penh during these days (most of the Khmer people go back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families so expect no traffic in town!) If you are staying in town you can walk around the area near Wat Phnom for attending some traditional games, and if you decided to travel have a look on Camboticket website for some last minute deals, so many provinces in this country to explore in these holidays!
Sousday chnam thmei 🙂