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Cambodian New Year

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Cambodian New Year
Khmer New Year GA2010-146.jpg
Young women at a Khmer New Year celebration in Lithonia, Georgia, US, 2010.
Official nameCambodian New Year បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី
Also calledChoul Chnam Thmey
Observed byKhmers
SignificanceMarks the Cambodian New Year
Begins14 April
Ends16 April
Date14 April
2019 date14 April, Pig
2020 date13 April, Rat
Related toSouth and Southeast Asian New Years

Cambodian New Year (Khmer: បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី) (Choul Chnam Thmey, literally "Enter New Year"), is the name of the Cambodian holiday that celebrates the traditional Lunar New Year.[1] The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year's Day, which usually falls on April 13 or 14th, which is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. Khmers living abroad may choose to celebrate during a weekend rather than just specifically April 13 through 16th. The Khmer New Year coincides with the traditional solar new year in several parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

Cambodians also use Buddhist Era to count the year based on the Buddhist calendar. For 2018, it will be 2562 BE (Buddhist Era).[2]

The three days of the new year

Elders cleanse statues of the Buddha with perfumed water.
Tables with offerings of flowers and food to one's ancestors are commonly set up for the Khmer New Year. Seen here is a Chinese Cambodian ancestor altar.

Maha Sangkran (មហាសង្រ្កាន្ត)

Maha Sangkran, derived from Sanskrit Maha Sankranti, is the name of the first day of the new year celebration. It is the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. People dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines, where the members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha's teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times in front of his image. For good luck people wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed.

Virak Vanabat (វិរ:វ័នបត)

Vireak Vanabat is the name of the second day of the new year celebration. People contribute charity to the less fortunate by helping the poor, servants, homeless, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at monasteries.

Vearak Loeng Sak (វារៈឡើងស័ក)

T'ngai Loeng Sak in Khmer is the name of the third day of the new year celebration. Buddhists wash the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is a symbolic practice to wash bad actions away like water clean dirt from household items. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By washing their grandparents and parents, the children can obtain from them best wishes and good pieces of advice to live the life for the rest of the year.

New Year's customs

In temples, people erect a sand hillock on temple grounds. They mound up a big pointed hill of sand or dome in the center which represents Valuka Chaitya, the stupa at Tavatimsa where the Buddha's hair and diadem are buried. The big stupa is surrounded by four small ones, which represent the stupas of the Buddha's favorite disciples: Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, and Maha Kassapa. There is another tradition called Sraung Preah (ស្រង់ព្រះ) : pouring water or liquid plaster (a mixture of water with some chalk powder) on elder relative, or people (mostly the younger generation is responsible for pouring the water).

The Khmer New Year is also a time to prepare special dishes. One of these is a "kralan": a cake made from steamed rice mixed with beans or peas, grated coconut and coconut milk. The mixture is stuffed inside a bamboo stick and slowly roasted.[3]

Traditional games (ល្បែង⁣ប្រជាប្រិយ)

Khmer New Year GA2010-128.jpg
Cambodge Khmer new year 4.JPG

Cambodia is home to a variety of games played to transform the dull days into memorable occasions. These games are similar to those played in Manipur, a north-eastern state in India.[4] Throughout the Khmer New Year, street corners often are crowded with friends and families enjoying a break from routine, filling their free time with dancing and games. Typically, Khmer games help maintain one's mental and physical dexterity.

Chol Chhoung (ចោល⁣ឈូង)

A game played especially on the first nightfall of the Khmer New Year by two groups of boys and girls. Ten or 20 people comprise each group, standing in two rows opposite each other. One group throws the chhoung to the other group. When it is caught, it will be rapidly thrown back to the first group. If someone is hit by the chhoung, the whole group must dance to get the chhoung back while the other group sings to the dance.

Chab Kon Kleng (ចាប់⁣កូនខ្លែង)

A game played by imitating a hen as she protects her chicks from a crow. Adults typically play this game on the night of the first New Year's Day. Participants usually appoint a strong player to play the hen who protects "her" chicks, while another person is picked to be the "crow". While both sides sing a song of bargaining, the crow tries to catch as many chicks as possible as they hide behind the hen.

Bos Angkunh (បោះអង្គុញ⁣)

The simple style consists of just throwing the Ongkunhs to hit the target Ongkunhs. The extended style adds five more stages in addition to the throwing stage. Both styles end with a penalty called Jours-activity that the winning team members get to perform on the losing team members. The Jours-activity is performed by using the Onkunghs the hit the knees of the losing team.

Leak Kanseng (លាក់⁣កន្សែង)⁣

A game played by a group of children sitting in a circle. Someone holding a "kanseng" (Cambodian towel) that is twisted into a round shape walks around the circle while singing a song. The person walking secretly tries to place the "kanseng" behind one of the children. If that chosen child realizes what is happening, he or she must pick up the "kanseng" and beat the person sitting next to him or her.

Bay Khom (បាយខុម)

A game played by two children in rural or urban areas during their leisure time. Ten holes are dug in the shape of an oval into a board in the ground. The game is played with 42 small beads, stones or fruit seeds. Before starting the game, five beads are put into each of the two holes located at the tip of the board. Four beads are placed in each of the remaining eight holes. The first player takes all the beads from any hole and drops them one by one in the other holes. He or she must repeat this process until they have dropped the last bead into a hole that lies besides any empty one. Then they must take all the beads in the hole that follows the empty one. At this point, the second player may have his turn. The game ends when all the holes are empty. The player with the greatest number of beads wins the game. It is possibly similar to congkak.

Angkor Sangkran (អង្គរសង្ក្រាន្ត)

Angkor Sangkran (Sanskrit: Angkor Sangkranta) is an event of Khmer New Year organized by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) which is held in Siem Reap province from 14–16 April. Culture event action-packed Angkor Sangkran is an opportunity for all Cambodians as a united Khmer Family and for foreign friends to receive unforgettable and exquisite experiences during Khmer New Year in Cambodia.

Dates in Khmer calendar

Gregorian Date Animal Day of the week Gregorian Date Animal Day of the week
2001 13 April Snake Friday 2026 13 April Horse Tuesday
2002 13 April Horse Saturday 2027 13 April Goat Thursday
2003 13 April Goat Sunday 2028 13 April Monkey Saturday
2004 13 April Monkey Tuesday 2029 13 April Rooster Sunday
2005 13 April Rooster Wednesday 2030 13 April Dog Monday
2006 13 April Dog Thursday 2031 13 April Pig Tuesday
2007 13 April Pig Friday 2032 13 April Rat Thursday
2008 13 April Rat Sunday 2033 13 April Ox Friday
2009 13 April Ox Monday 2034 13 April Tiger Saturday
2010 13 April Tiger Tuesday 2035 13 April Rabbit Sunday
2011 13 April Rabbit Wednesday 2036 13 April Dragon Tuesday
2012 13 April Dragon Friday 2037 13 April Snake Wednesday
2013 13 April Snake Saturday 2038 13 April Horse Thursday
2014 13 April Horse Sunday 2039 13 April Goat Friday
2015 13 April Goat Monday 2040 13 April Monkey Sunday
2016 13 April Monkey Wednesday 2041 13 April Rooster Monday
2017 14 April Rooster Friday 2042 13 April Dog Tuesday
2018 14 April Dog Saturday 2043 13 April Pig Wednesday
2019 13 April Pig Saturday 2044 13 April Rat Friday
2020 13 April Rat Monday 2045 13 April Ox Saturday
2021 13 April Ox Tuesday 2046 13 April Tiger Sunday
2022 13 April Tiger Thursday 2047 13 April Rabbit Monday
2023 13 April Rabbit Friday 2048 13 April Dragon Wednesday
2024 13 April Dragon Sunday 2049 13 April Snake Thursday
2025 13 April Snake Monday 2050 13 April Horse Friday

See also


  1. ^ Danico, Mary Yu (2014). Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4833-6560-2.
  2. ^ "Buddhist Calendar". UTBF.ORG. April 2016. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  3. ^ Nhem, Chea Bunly (May 22–23, 2004). "Let Them Eat Cake". The Cambodia Daily. Archived from the original on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  4. ^ Singh, Atom Sunil; Indigenous Games of Cambodia and Manipur