Angkor Wat

Khmer New Year's Day

Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival in Cambodia, it 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 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. 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. 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 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 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.