Khmer New Year:
Khmer New Year is one of the most important holidays in Cambodia. The festival is celebrated annually and is also a major event in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar – all predominantly Buddhist countries.
Cambodian New Year – locally known as Chaul Chnam Thmey in Khmer, literally means ‘’Enter the New Year’’. The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year’s Day, and traditionally falls on 13 or 14 April. (This year it is 13-15 April.) This time of the year is of great importance to Khmer people as it is the end of the harvesting season. This is the time of the year for farmers to enjoy the fruits of their harvest and relax before the rainy season begins, and the cycle starts all over again.
The Three days of Khmer New Year can be described as follows:
Maha Songkran is the name of the first day of the New Year’s celebration. It is the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. People are known to dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at the shrines and pagodas. Khmer people will gather with their families and offer thanks for Buddha’s teachings. For good luck they will wash each other’s face with holy water in the morning, their chest at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed.
Virak Wanabat is the name of the second day of the Khmer New Year celebration. On this day people offer charity to the less fortunate and help poor, homeless people and low-income families. Traditionally, families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery on Virak Wanabat.
Tngay Leang Saka
Tngay Leang Saka is the third day of Khmer New Year. On this day Buddhists anoint Buddha statues and respect elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha symbolizes people’s need for water for all beings. It is also thought to bring good luck and long life. By anointing their parents, grandparents and friends – you get good luck in return. This ceremony is called Pithi Srang Preah in Khmer.
Khmer New Year is great fun for visitors. The celebration has now evolved and tourists are able to enjoy and even take part in the local ceremonies, enjoy a few drinks and join in by playing jest tek or water play. As of last year the water playing has been toned down in Phnom Penh due to the quantity of motorbikes, but in the provinces jest tek remains the same as before.
Khiri Travel Myanmar can arrange special programmes for clients interested in experiencing Chaul Chnam Thmey. Email: Linda@khiri.com.