PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) – Cambodians of Chinese descent have been flocking to shops to buy decorations and religious items for Chinese New Year celebrations that see the Year of the Monkey ushered on Monday.
With many Cambodians having Chinese ancestry, although it is not an official holiday in this Southeast Asian nation, the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it’s sometimes known, is widely celebrated here. Shops selling decorative materials and items for prayer have attracted crowds of customers over the past couple of weeks leading up to the annual festival.
“Usually, a fortnight before the New Year, business is booming. A lot of customers, sometimes thousands, come to my shop every day,” Sok Ly, owner of the Hak Senghong shop in Phnom Penh, told Xinhua.
“The Spring Festival is very popular in Cambodia,” he added.
His shop sells all kinds of materials for the festive celebrations, including lanterns, red paper-cut decorations, Chinese couplets, flowers, candles, joss sticks, joss paper, to name just a few. He said all materials had been purchased directly from the Chinese Mainland and China’s Taiwan.
A famous Cambodian comedian, Chuang Chi, who is better known by his nickname “Koy,” said his grandparents were Chinese and his family celebrated the festival every year.
“We pray to our ancestors on the occasion,” he said. “Each year, I spend at least $3,000 to buy the necessary things for the New Year celebrations.”
“Most of the people in Cambodia enjoy celebrating the Chinese New Year because they believe that the celebrations will bring them good luck and fortunes,” he added.
In Cambodia, plum blossom saplings are popularly used to decorate homes during the festival. “I buy this kind of flower to decorate my house because I believe that the blossoming tree will bring fortune and happiness to my family in the New Year,” said Tea Veng Srun, 59, whose family has celebrated the festival for generations.
Lok Thuor, a Cambodian lecturer of literature and culture at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, estimated that up to 60 percent of Cambodians celebrate the Chinese New Year.
“Chinese New Year is as popular as Cambodian New Year. Most Cambodians enjoy celebrating this festival by making food offerings to their ancestors,” he told Xinhua.
Lok Thuor, who used to spend a year teaching at a university in China, said the image of the festival celebrations in Cambodia is the same as that in China, stemming from house decorations to items related to prayer.
“My family also observes the Chinese New Year, we have already decorated our house and bought the necessary goods we need to offer prayers to our ancestors,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday that Chinese New Year is broadly celebrated in Cambodia. “Ahead of the new year, people have decorated their houses with Chinese couplets,” he said during a university graduation ceremony. “Cambodia celebrates three new year festivals a year – the Universal New Year, the Chinese New Year and the Cambodian New Year.”