Christmas is the season of giving and sharing, but is it so for Cambodian youth? Say Tola tries to find out.
Suon Tithbotumroth a student at Pannasastra University of Cambodia
“I notice that in the West, Christmas is a family affair – which is quite similar to the Pchum Ben festival in Cambodia. But Christmas in Cambodia is really exciting. Young people like to go out with their friends and join Christmas parties. It’s all about having fun in celebrating Christmas. It isn’t bad to use Christmas as an occasion to just do that.”
Chhay Ratha a recent nursing graduate from the Technical School for Medical Care
“Christmas is a worship day for all followers of Christ. It also a day for Santa to give gifts to kids. When I was young, I remember getting many gifts from my friends. On Christmas Day, I normally meet up with my friends and we party a bit.
I don’t have any negative feelings about Christmas because shops and department stores in the malls always have discounts on their products. Christmas is good because it’s a time for enjoying together. It doesn’t affect Khmer culture at all because Cambodians love to celebrate all festivals. You also give presents to your parents, and not only to your boyfriend or girlfriend, to show your love.”
Dy Rotha a student at Pannasastra University of Cambodia
“Christmas day was exciting for me when I was studying English in a private school. Both Valentine and Christmas Days have good perspectives. But youths always do extreme things on those days and interpret them in a wrong way.
The guys give presents on these days to their girlfriends and expect something in return – sometimes against the girl’s will. Yes, we can enjoy Christmas but please don’t overdo it.”
Suon Sreypov an English teacher at Alalangta Centre
“Christmas is very much a European thing. Companies normally have parties for their staff to show their appreciation and the management has gifts for them. It’s also a good day for the boss to build up his or her relationship with the staff. Since Christmas is only one day in the year, I don’t think it’s a bad influence on Cambodian culture.
It only becomes unpleasant, when youths decide to do bad things on that day. It’s the intention that counts.”
KeutH Chanthou a student at Hun Sen Takhmao High School
“Christmas Day always reminds me of my high school friends and the good relationship I have with them. It’s good to get excited over Christmas and have fun together with your friends. We all have the freedom of choice. It doesn’t mean that when we celebrate Christmas, we will stop going to the pagoda or stop celebrating Khmer festivals.
But I should point out that some youth care more about Christmas than Khmer festivals because they can enjoy themselves. They also take the exchange of gifts seriously.”
Nov Chansereyvuth a maths major at Royal University of Phnom Penh:
“Christmas Day originates from the West. Cambodians always exchange presents on that day because they are influenced by foreign cultures. Christmas has a negative connotation for me.
The majority of people that exchange gifts just want something in return. This giving doesn’t come from the bottom of their hearts to strengthen relationships. Because of this, Khmer culture will soon disappear.
I’m not happy when I see Christmas decorations all over the city. Cambodians have to understand their own culture first, instead of imitating foreign ones.”