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Cambodia New Year: A Time to Celebrate

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: March 18, 2023

Cambodia New Year, also known as Khmer New Year, is an important holiday in Cambodia. It marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of a new year. Celebrated over three days in mid-April, Cambodia New Year is a time for family gatherings, religious ceremonies, and community celebrations.

History of Cambodia New Year

The origins of Cambodia New Year can be traced back to the ancient Khmer empire. The holiday was originally linked to the Hindu calendar and celebrated in January. However, when the Khmer empire converted to Buddhism, the holiday was moved to April to coincide with the Buddhist New Year. Today, Cambodia New Year is celebrated by both Buddhists and non-Buddhists in Cambodia.

Celebrations during Cambodia New Year

During the Cambodian New Year, Cambodians participate in a variety of customs and rituals. One of the most popular is the pouring of water, where family members pour water over one another as a symbol of cleansing and purification. This tradition is especially popular in rural areas, where people will gather at pagodas and pour water on monks and statues of Buddha.

Another popular tradition during Cambodia New Year is the making and eating of traditional foods such as amok (fish curry), kralan (sticky rice cake), and nom banh chok (rice noodle soup). These foods are often served to family and friends during the holiday, and they hold special significance to Cambodians.

During Cambodia New Year, the streets of Cambodia are filled with people dressed in colourful traditional clothing, dancing, and playing games. The main celebration takes place in the capital city of Phnom Penh, where a large parade featuring floats, musicians, and performers is held. The parade culminates in the lighting of a ceremonial flame, which represents the hope for a prosperous new year.

In addition to the parade, there are various other celebrations that take place during Cambodia New Year. One of the most significant events is the Angkor Sankranta Festival, which takes place in Siem Reap. This festival is a combination of traditional and modern celebrations and features live music, food stalls, and cultural performances.

Cambodians also celebrate Cambodian New Year by visiting pagodas to offer food, flowers, and incense to the monks and to receive blessings. Pagodas are often decorated with colourful banners and traditional artwork, and they offer a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Another important tradition during Cambodia New Year is the building of sand stupas. These are small structures made from sand and decorated with flags, flowers, and incense. They are built to honour ancestors and to bring good luck for the upcoming year.

Overall, Cambodia New Year is a time for celebration, reflection, and renewal. The holiday is a reminder of the importance of family, community, and tradition in Cambodian culture. Whether you’re visiting Cambodia as a traveller or a volunteer in Siem Reap, Cambodia New Year is a unique opportunity to experience the country’s rich culture and to participate in traditional customs and celebrations.

Cambodian traditional culture

Preparations for Cambodia New Year

Preparations for Cambodia New Year begin weeks in advance. People will clean their homes and prepare offerings for the monks and ancestors. They will also purchase new clothes and make sure they have enough food and drink for their guests.

Travelling to Cambodia for New Year

If you’re interested in experiencing Cambodia’s New Year firsthand, there’s no better time to visit Cambodia. The holiday is typically celebrated in mid-April, and it’s a great time to experience the country’s unique culture and customs. Many attractions and activities are available during the holiday, including temple visits, street festivals, and traditional dance performances.

Volunteering in Cambodia with GVI

Another way to experience Cambodia New Year is through volunteering with GVI. GVI offers a variety of volunteer programs in Cambodia that allow travellers to be immersed in Cambodian culture and make a positive impact on local communities. As a volunteer with GVI, you’ll have the opportunity to teach English, work on conservation projects, and participate in community development initiatives.

Volunteering with GVI during Cambodia New Year is a unique opportunity to experience the holiday firsthand while giving back to the community. You’ll be able to participate in traditional customs and celebrations, and you’ll have the chance to learn about Cambodian culture in a way that most travellers never experience.

Cambodia New Year is an important holiday in Cambodia, and it’s a great time to experience the country’s unique culture and customs. Whether you’re interested in travelling to Cambodia for the holiday or volunteering with GVI, there are many opportunities to get involved and experience the holiday firsthand. By participating in traditional customs and celebrations, you’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Cambodian culture, and you’ll have the chance to make a positive impact on local communities.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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