Each year, Khmer New Year is the most anticipated holidays for Cambodian. It is symbolic for switching to the new year with a new beginning. Among other countries who celebrate the New Year in April, neighboring countries Thailand, Laos and Myanmar also have similar tradition as Khmer New Year.
Further away, India and Sri Lanka as well as other countries who have a common calendar as the Hindus and Buddhists also celebrate the new year around the same period.
To Cambodians, April is well known to be as a festive month for celebration across the country. The Khmer New Year is symbolic for annual family gatherings and road trips to provinces as it is one of the longest holiday during the year.
Cambodia is at peace from the civil war and as such, Cambodians will celebrate the New Year differently as the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting the country.
As new year is just around the corner, here is what you should find out and get ready for.
Brief history of Khmer New Year
According to the Cambodian dictionary, Chuon Nath, Sangkranta means a changeover day from the previous year to the new year. It is a word used to refer to new year celebrations.
Taking place over three days, the name of the Khmer New Year ceremony is Maha Sangkran, Virak Vanabat or Vearak Loeng Sak. Meanwhile, Maha Sangkran is the name of the first day of the new year celebration. According to mythology, each day of the week represents an angel who descends on earth and is welcomed by the people.
In total seven angels who are Kabillaprom’s children will take care of the whole year. According to the book entitled Maha Sangkranta, this year, the Khmer New Year day will be falling on Monday with the angel of Monday “Khorakha Thewi”.
Beautiful tradition of Khmer New Year
Khmer New Year is a time for relatives to pray for their past loved one. Making this gesture, they believe by sending food, flowers and other offerings to the monks in pagoda meaning they are paying respect to their ancestors. It also represents the good deeds you start doing in a new chapter of the Khmer New Year.
In addition, you will see families starting to clean their home and redecorating is a must in most of Cambodian households, to complete with flickering neon lights.
New generations of Cambodians have a different yet beautiful eye when it comes to Khmer New Year, gathering to play traditional games to make the most of their day.
One of the fun activities during the new year is a water fight which is popular among kids and adults and a long practiced tradition among many to celebrate the upcoming new year.
There is no exact date about the water fight game during the Khmer New Year, however grand-parents always like to share a glimpse of history with younger ones.
A myth says that as April is the hottest month of the year, people always prepare water containers placed outside the home for travelers to cool down. After some years, it became a traditional game which everyone enjoyed to participate.
Even though social distancing is recommended this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Cambodian residents are advised to celebrate Khmer New Year at home with the same tradition.
This year, all the festive ceremonies are cancelled to prevent the virus from spreading further, hence, all the social gathering during Khmer New Year is strictly banned. Although, there are some restriction by the government, the cerebration with small family gatherings is allowed as usual.
According to Maha Sangkranta book, Cambodian are to prepare offering to this year’s angel. The offering changes depending on the angel. According to the Maha Sangkran book, this year, Cambodian are expected to prepare at least three to five types of fruits for the angel. All the offerings are advised to have jasmine flowers placed on top. This year, white and yellow table coverings are recommended.
Stay safe during this sweet escape
During this pandemic, family outdoor parties are not a good idea. The idea of celebrating the Khmer New Year this year seems to be isolated. As the crowd can spread the virus more easily. Travelling to visit some tourist spots is also not recommended as public place is where the pandemic can be spread quickly.
However, making Khmer New Year joyful during COVID-19 is not as complicated as you think. Since it is an important celebration for Cambodia, spending time with your family is worth the effort.
Camping with your small family during this COVID-19 pandemic is the best choice to enjoy this symbolic holiday. It brings joy and safety, preparing delicious traditional Khmer food and building a tent at home.
Every year, Khmer New Year is a festivity enjoyed by each member of the family.
And yes, don’t forget to wash your hands often and wear mask to stay safe from the virus!
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