April 14, 2017 is the first day of the Cambodian New Year’s celebrations. Distinct from the Chinese New Year, Cambodian New Year, or Khmer New Year, lasts for 3 – 4 days and is based on the traditional solar new year observed in parts of India and Asia, which coincides with the end of the harvest season.
What is Chaul Chnam Thmey?
Cambodian New Year, also known as Khmer New Year, is a three-day public holiday in Cambodia. In Khmer, it is called “Chaul Chnam Thmey,” which is translated literally in English as “enter the new year.'” The time of celebration, this year April 14th to 16th, is based on the traditional solar new year observed in parts of India and Southeast Asia. It also coincides with the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the rainy season. Based on the solar calendar, climate and dependence on agriculture, the holiday is centered around mid-April to some extent for practical reasons as well as religious ones. Around the same time, similar New Year celebrations are also occurring in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.
Khmer New Year Celebrations
First Day – Moha Sangkran
The first day of the Khmer New Year is called Maha Songkran. In Cambodia, it is believed that this was the day of creation. In Khmer tradition, people clean their houses and illuminate them with candles. Families place an idol of Buddha on an altar offering food to welcome spirits.
Second Day – Wanabot
Also known as Wanabat, the second day of Khmer New Year is a time to think of the less fortunate. People offer charity by helping the poor, servants, and homeless. Families may go to monasteries to pay respect to their ancestors, and it is also a time for family members to exchange gifts.
Third Day – Leung Sakk
On the third day of New Year celebrations, Leung Sakk, people visit the temple to receive blessings from monks in the morning, and wash, clean and decorate with flowers the statues of Lord Buddha. This cleansing is done to ensure that Cambodia will receive all the water it needs in the coming year.
Language Connections says “Happy New Year!” or “Sur sdei chhnam thmei!” in the Khmer language, and”Suk-san wan Songkran” in Thai, for those of you who celebrate.
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