Khmer New Year 2023 - Welcoming the Cambodian New Year

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Families come together and spend happy times with each other. Pagodas get filled with locals, and the streets get lively with children of all age groups. People get engaged in traditional Khmer dancing and play a few fun games. All in all, Chol Chnam Thmey, or Khmer New Year, is all about having fun with each other and is also a national holiday and the most significant festival in Cambodia.

Khmer New Year 2023 - Dates

khmer new year 2023
2023 will be the year of the Rabbit, which is believed be a sign of longevity, peace, and prosperity. Rat is the fourth among the 12 animals cycle as per the Chinese Zodiac, and hence, it is supposed to be a year of renewals and new beginnings.
Khmer New Year 2023 - Friday Apr 14, 2023 - Sunday, Apr 16, 2023
Chinese Zodiac - Year of the Rabbit

About Khmer New Year

Khmer New Year Celebrations
Khmer New Year generally falls on the 13th or 14th of April, every year, as per the ancient Khmer horoscope reading. It goes on for three consecutive days, and it marks the official end of the harvest season in Cambodia and the commencement of the rainy season. Like other local celebrations in Cambodia, the Khmer New Year is also all about practising the best of rituals and traditions. Each of these three days of celebration has its name along with a particular associated traditional concept.

Three Days Of Khmer Celebrations

Day 1 - Moha Songkran - The Day of Blessings

Khmer New Year
Monks indulging in a hearty meal during the festival
Moha Songkran is the first day of the New Year celebrations and the inauguration of the Khmer New Year.
Customs: On this day, each member of the family has to work hard in cleaning and decorating the house in the best possible way, along with arranging foods & drinks on a table for welcoming the angels. The Buddhist followers usually prepare some meals and offer to the monks for seeking blessings.
Beliefs: According to the Khmer traditions, the world is created by God, and His angels take care of all of us.

Day 2 - Virak Vanabat - The Donating Day

Cambodian women dressed up for the festivities
The second day of the Khmer New Year signifies a day of donating gifts to the elders of the family, which includes parents and the grandparents. Most Cambodian natives offer charity by offering money, food and clothes to the less privileged as well.
Customs: In the evening, everybody in the house, including the elders as well as the younger ones, goes out to visit the religious temples and perform a traditional ceremony of erecting sandy mounds on its ground.
Beliefs : As per the Khmer culture, this ritual is believed to bring prosperity and longevity in the lives of the Cambodian people.

Day 3 - Vearak Leung Sak - Officially Welcoming the New Year

Khmer New Year
Devotees welcoming the New Year in much pomp
The third, and the final, day of the Khmer New Year is about bidding farewell to the year gone by and welcoming the New Year, with new hopes.
Customs: As per the local customs, people celebrate this day by performing ‘Pithi Srang Preah’, a ritualistic ceremony of washing and cleaning the Lord Buddha statues with scented water.
Beliefs: The ritual of Pithi Srang Preah symbolises the washing away of everything evil and gaining blessings from the Almighty. Many locals also wash the hands and feet of their parents or elders as a way of gratification and also to apologise to them for their past mistakes. During Khmer New Year in Cambodia, make yourself feel like a local by getting involved in the celebrations. If you have been planning a trip to Cambodia all this while, make it all the more special in the upcoming Khmer New Year.

Things to Do During the Festival

Khmer New Year
Decorations during the Khmer New Year
In case you are lucky enough to be in Cambodia during the Khmer New Year 2020, it is advisable for you to venture out and be a part of the festivities with the natives. Here are a few other recommended activities for you to enjoy during the Khmer New Year in Cambodia.

Visit a Pagoda

Khmer New Year
A Cambodian Pagoda
During this time of festivities, almost all the pagodas of Cambodia is decorated beautifully. You can go to one of them and admire the beauty of flower decorations all around.You will be able to experience some of the best traditional ceremonies that take place during the Khmer New Year in these pagodas.
Best time to Visit: It is recommended for you to visit during the morning to witness the locals going there to offer fruits and different kind of food to the monks to receive blessings.
Rules: Please note that you need to dress up modestly, with enough clothing, and do open your shoes while entering the pagodas.

Join the Siem Reap Celebrations

Khmer New Year
Khmer New Year Celebrations at Siem Reap
Siem Reap, a favorite Cambodian vacation spot, is one of the main attractions for the visitors as well as the locals during Khmer New Year. So, in case you are in the country during this time, do not hesitate to be there and take a look at the festivities. Several cultural activities take place throughout these three days of the New Year celebrations. Siem Reap is an excellent opportunity for you to discover the real Khmer traditions and cultures.
Food: You can also enjoy the different local cuisines which you will get in the various stalls set up for this occasion.
Shop at Siem Reap: Finally, you can come back with some beautiful handmade souvenirs for your near and dear ones back home.

Participate in Some Traditional Local Games

Khmer New Year
Traditional Cambodian board games
Don’t let the fantastic opportunity to feel like a local go away just like that and be a part of the conventional games and Khmer dances in the various public areas.Traditional games are a great way to know the real Cambodians and share a moment of fun and laughter with them.
Here are some of the social games that are being played during the Khmer New Year celebrations:

Khmer New Year
Children playing traditional games

Leak Kanseng

Leak Kanseng is a fun game where multiple players seat in a circle and one of them walks around the circle, singing, and trying to hide the ‘kangseng’ small towel), behind the back of one of the players who are sitting without them noticing.

Teanh Proat 

Teanh Proat is the usual tug-of-war with teams of girls and boys pulling on the rope, showing off their strengths.

Donderm Sleok Cher

In Donderm Sleok Cher, there are two groups of players, standing 30 feet away from each other. There is a referee who will call one member each from the teams and both of them will have to try and grab a small branch of a tree which is kept in the middle.

Visit a Local Village

Khmer New Year
Cultural Village Festivities
Spend a laid back afternoon in a local village if you can. Visiting a local village will be the best way to interact with the residents and experience the most authentic celebrations of the Khmer New Year.
Tips: Take your camera along and capture the most magnificent landscapes with wooden houses and paddy fields.

Party Hard at the Old Market Area

Khmer New Year
Old Market Area, Siem Reap
Finally, on the last day celebrations, spend the night away partying on the streets of the Old Market area. You will find a hoard of tourists and locals having a good time there, celebrating the end of their three-day long holiday. There will be fireworks in the sky to conclude the celebrations at midnight.

Khmer New Year is a grand Cambodian Festivity. It's not only a great time to plan your trip to Cambodia but also an excellent chance to learn and live life the Cambodian style!

This post was published by Anuradha Chakraborty

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