By Emily Martin

Christmas in Cambodia

Tis the season to be merry, think of others, stuff your belly full with home-cooked meals and to spend time with family and friends.

But what if you are on the road this Christmas, more particularly, what if you are in Cambodia this Christmas? How might you be able to celebrate and have some Christmas cheer?

Cambodians do not traditionally celebrate the holiday. The leading religion is Buddhism and so the closest celebration to Christmas in Cambodian culture would be Vesak. This celebration is held in May or June each year, marked by the full moon. It celebrates the birth of Buddha as well as his enlightening and death.

On this day devout Buddhists and followers alike assemble at their various temples before dawn for the ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist flag and the singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (his disciplines).

Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their teacher. These symbolic offerings are to remind them that just as the beautiful flowers will wither after time and the candles will burn-out, so too is life subject to decay. Birds, insects and animals are released in what is known as a ‘symbolic act of liberation’; of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will.

It is also a chance to make special efforts to bring happiness to those who are old, living with disability and sick.

There are a small number of Christians living in Cambodia, and a large number of Western tourists in the area constantly – so while majority of people will be going about their normal, daily lives on the 25th of December you can always find a little bit of Cambodian Christmas cheer!

The churches hold Christmas services as well as Christmas parties for young Cambodians living in villages.

Santa hats, tinsel, Christmas decorations and cards can be found in a number of shops in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. You might need to search a little bit, but they are definitely around!

Larger hotels and restaurants are decorated with Christmas trees, fairy lights, snow men (not made from snow of course), tinsel and other Christmasy add-ons. Many put on a special Christmas dinner, so if you’re craving a roast chicken/turkey/beef you’ll find it somewhere close!

Getting into the swing of it all, Phare, The Cambodian Circus made this short video to say a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our followers, supporters and fans!

Have a great holiday!