Khmer New Year & Angkor Songkran
Chaul Chnam Thmei is the name of the Cambodian New Year Festival which also means “Entering the New Year” in Khmer language. The New Year Festival lasts for three days which starts from 13th of April. The Chaul Chnam Thmei coincides with the end of harvesting season which a time of leisure for farmers to enjoy the fruit of their labor before the rainy season begins. Khmer New Year is considered to be one of the most important celebrations and one of the ‘must-join’ festivals in Cambodia especially for savvy travelers who would like to immerse themselves in the local culture. For locals, it is a great opportunity for them to visit their homeland and spend the celebration with their family and friends.
How Khmer New Year is Celebrated
Cambodians celebrate their New Year with some ceremonies, visits to the temples and sorts of Khmer traditions. At home, Khmer observant set up altars where they place some food, desserts, drinks and some candles to offer for the souls and spirits. Some locals on the other hand, head over their local pagodas and offer food and some items to monks. Their belief is that, the things the people donate through the monks, are thought to reach to the hands of the dead ancestors in the hell, and the more they donate, the better the dead ancestors will wish for them.
Some traditions are also observed such as “Sraung Preah”, the pouring of water or liquid plaster (a mixture of water and chalk powder) on people which everybody enjoys especially the younger generation. Cambodian also prepare a traditional cake called “kralan” a cake made from steamed rice with beans, grated coconut and coconut milk.
Three Days of Chaul Chnam Thmei
- Maha Songkran is the first day of the Khmer New Year celebration. People usually dress up, light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines. Moreover, it’s also a day where they prepare food offerings to be blessed by the monks.
- Virak Wanabat is the name of the second day of the celebration. Families attend a ceremony dedicated to their ancestors at the monastery. Moreover, it is also the “Day of Giving”. It is the day where Cambodians give gifts to their parents and elderly people and also donate to unfortunate ones.
- Tngay Lean Saka is the last day of the new year celebration. On this day, Buddha statues are cleansed with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is the symbol that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. It is believed that it brings longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. Also, the last day is a joyful farewell held in the afternoon. Everyone flocks on the streets and in public places and pour water on each other. Young people also throw baby powder and flour at each other.
Things to do on Khmer New Year / Angkor Songkran
- Indulge your taste buds with traditional Khmer food. There are select hotels and resorts that showcase traditional food from different provinces of Cambodia. This year, the booths are set up right in front of the Elephant Terrace as they have also set up a stage for an event. It is a perfect way to have a taste of Cambodia.
- Attend the Angkor Sankranti youth-sponsored event in Siem Reap. Cambodians and foreigners alike will definitely enjoy this event, ideal for those who like musical events.
- Visit Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple. Locals as well as tourists may head to these places as these two Angkorian temples are lit up for the Khmer New Year.
- Head over Pub Street and enjoy the rest of the night. Pub Street is where the action is. Be prepared as you will get soaked up and be poured with some powder on. Expect a fun, wild and enjoyable night.
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