What is Khmer New Year?

By Mengteang Thong

Cambodian people have many holidays during the year. The most important is Khmer New Year (Khmer: បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី, pronounced: Choul Chnam Thmey). It is celebrated over three days starting from the 13th or 14th of April, which coincides with the end of the harvesting season. Khmer New Year is a precious time for Cambodian people to gather with family, friends and their community. It is celebrated throughout Cambodia and is rooted in Buddhist traditions.

Khmer New Year

So how is Khmer New Year celebrated? There are different traditions on each day.

Day 1: Maha Songkran (មហាសង្រ្កាន្ត)

On the first day of Khmer New Year people put fruit in front of their houses as an offering to the gods. They believe that the new gods will come to take nourishment from the fruits and give their blessings to the home.

Day 2: Virak Vanabat (វិរ:វ័នបត)

On the second day people visit their relatives, give gifts to their parents, have a nice lunch with them or visit somewhere together.

Day 3: Vearak Loeng Sak (វារៈឡើងស័ក)

On the last day people bathe statues of Buddha and their parents and grandparents with water blessed by monks. In the Khmer language we say “Srong Tek. This is a way to respect the Buddha and your parents, bring them health and long life, and ask their forgiveness for past wrongs.

Over the three days, people also bring some food to the pagoda for ancestors who have passed away.

KNY_3I moved from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap in 2014 and I think Khmer New Year in Siem Reap is enjoyable. People always respect and remember. I really like the big trees along the streets.  I have fallen in love with the many temples and many things such as traditional Khmer performing, Cambodian circus, food, music and nightlife. If you are in Siem Reap for Khmer New Year, I am sure you will remember it and want to come back again.

Read more about Cambodian holidays here.

Read more about Phare here.