The Khmer New Year is the biggest traditional festival and national holiday in Cambodia. The exact date depends on the ancient Buddhist horoscope “Maha Sangkran”, it is always in the fortnight of April, this year 2018 will be celebrated exactly 14, 15 and 16 and the year of the “Dog” is welcomed. The Khmer New Year is the perfect holiday to learn more about the culture of the country and the important role that the Buddhist religion plays in the way of being of the Cambodian society.
THE FIRST DAY of the Khmer new year is called “Maha Sangkran”. “Maha” means “great”, and Sangkran means “movement”. It refers to the sun moving to a new sign of the zodiac. Tradition dictates that on that day it is important to wash all your personal things, as well as the house where you live as a sign of cleanliness and purification. Families gather in the houses, showing respect for the elderly.
THE SECOND DAY is called Vireak Wanabot”. On this day, we offer gifts to our parents, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. During the afternoon, temples are visited to leave offerings for the most needy (the poor and people without resources), sand mountains are built in honor of the ancestors. The monks will bless them with happiness and peace.
THE THIRD DAY is called “Leung Saka” and it’s really the first day of the new year. It is perhaps the most beautiful of all because the tradition marks that temples are visited and the statues of Buddha are washed with purified water. During the ceremony, Cambodians apologize for the mistakes they made during the previous year.
Under this symbolism the tradition also marks that the youngest of the family wash the body of the elderly.
‘Just as you washed me when I was a little helpless baby, now I wash you, because I have no other way to show you my gratitude for what you did for me.’
The Khmer New Year is not only a great celebration, it is also an opportunity to transmit Cambodian traditions to the next generation.
In the villages, people get involved in traditional Khmer games such as Bas Angkunh (seed release), Chaol Chhoung (handkerchief release) and Leak Kanséng (hide the handkerchief). People also dance to the rhythm of traditional songs.