Khmer New Year Celebrations in the Home and at the Temple
The Cambodian New Year or Chaul Chnam Thmey in Khmer literally means, “enter the new year.” The holiday, based on the lunar calendar, lasts for three days falling on 13-15 April. It is the end of the harvesting season. Farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. But first it’s three days of celebrations.
Maha Songkran, derived from Sanskrit Maha Sankranti, is the name of the first day of the New Year celebration. It marks the ending of the year and the beginning of a new one. People dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines. Here the members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha’s teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before Buddha’s image. Traditionally, for good luck, people wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed.
The second day of the New Year celebration is called Virak Wanabat. People contribute charity to the less fortunate by helping the poor, servants, homeless, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the local monastery.
T’ngai Leang Saka is the third day of the New Year celebration. Buddhists cleanse the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images symbolize that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and living things. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future.
The Khmer New Year coincides with the traditional New Year celebrations in Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and parts of India.
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