Cambodian New Year

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Cambodian New Year
Khmer women during a Cambodian New Year’s parade in Siem Reap
Official nameបុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី ប្រពៃណីជាតិ (lit.'New Year Festival, the National Tradition')
Also calledChoul Chnam Thmey
Moha Sangkran,[1]: 63 [2]: 138  or Sangkran
Observed byKhmer people
SignificanceMarks the traditional solar new year in Cambodia
Begins14 April
Ends16 April
Date14 April
2024 date13 April, Dragon
Related toSouth and Southeast Asian New Years

Cambodian New Year (or Khmer New Year; Khmer: បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំខ្មែរ [ɓon coːl cʰnam kʰmae]), also known as Choul Chnam Thmey (Khmer: ចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី, UNGEGN: Chol Chhnăm Thmei, ALA-LC: Cūl Chnāṃ Thmī [coːl cʰnam tʰməj]; lit.'Enter the New Year'), Moha Sangkran[1]: 63 [2]: 138  (Khmer: មហាសង្ក្រាន្ត, UNGEGN: Môha Sângkrant, ALA-LC: Mahā Sangkrānt [mɔhaː sɑŋkraːn]; lit.'Great Sankranti') or Sangkran,[1]: 63 [2]: 138  is the traditional celebration of the solar new year in Cambodia.[3] A three-day public holiday in the country, the observance begins on New Year's Day, which usually falls on 13 April or 14 April, 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 13 April through 16 April. The Khmer New Year coincides with the traditional solar new year in several parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

The three days of the new year

Preah Sorya's journey with his sun marking the Khmer New Year.
Elders cleanse statues of the Buddha with perfumed water.

Moha Sangkrant

Moha Sangkrant[1]: 63 [2]: 138  (Khmer: មហាសង្រ្កាន្ត, Môha Sângkrant) or Sangkrant, derived from Sanskrit saṅkrānti, 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.

Veareak Vanabat

Veareak Vanabat (Khmer: វារៈវ័នបត, Véareă Voănôbât) 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.

Veareak Laeung Sak

Veareak Laeung Sak (វារៈឡើងស័ក, Véareăk Laeung Săk) 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 images of Buddha is a symbolic practice to wash bad actions away, like cleaning dirt from household items with water. 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

Tables with offerings of flowers and food to one's ancestors are commonly set up for the Khmer New Year.

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 Srang Preah (ស្រង់ព្រះ, Sráng Preăh) : 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" (ក្រឡាន, Krâlan): 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.[4]

Traditional games

Khmer women dressed in traditional garments

Cambodia is home to a variety of traditional games (ល្បែង⁣ប្រជាប្រិយ, Lbêng Prâchéaprĕy) played to transform the dull days into memorable occasions. These games are similar to those played in Manipur, a north-eastern state in India.[5] 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

Chol Chhoung (ចោល⁣ឈូង, Chaôl Chhung) is 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.

Chap Kon Kleng

Chap Kon Kleng (ចាប់⁣កូនខ្លែង, Chăp Kon Khlêng) is 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

Khmer dancers and drummers

Bos Angkunh (បោះអង្គុញ⁣, Baôh Ángkŭnh) is the simple style consists of just throwing the Angkunhs to hit the target Angkunhs. 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 Angkunghs the hit the knees of the losing team.

Leak Kanseng

Leak Kanseng (លាក់⁣កន្សែង, Leăk Kánsêng)⁣ is 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

Bay Khom (បាយខុម, Bay Khŏm) is 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 Sangkrant

Khmer New Year Sand Hill ceremony

Angkor Sangkrant (អង្គរសង្ក្រាន្ត, Ángkô Sángkran) is a Khmer New Year event organized by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) in Siem Reap from 14–16 April. The cultural event is an opportunity for all Cambodians to unite, 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 14 April Horse Tuesday
2002 13 April Horse Saturday 2027 14 April Goat Thursday
2003 13 April Goat Sunday 2028 13 April Monkey Saturday
2004 13 April Monkey Tuesday 2029 14 April Rooster Sunday
2005 13 April Rooster Wednesday 2030 14 April Dog Monday
2006 13 April Dog Thursday 2031 14 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 Sunday 2044 13 April Rat Friday
2020 13 April Rat Monday 2045 13 April Ox Saturday
2021 14 April Ox Tuesday 2046 13 April Tiger Sunday
2022 14 April Tiger Thursday 2047 13 April Rabbit Monday
2023 14 April Rabbit Friday 2048 13 April Dragon Wednesday
2024 13 April Dragon Saturday 2049 13 April Snake Thursday
2025 14 April Snake Monday 2050 13 April Horse Friday

See also


  1. ^ a b c d S. Tandart. (1910). Dictionnaire Français-Cambodgien Vol. I. Paris: Société des Missions-Etrangèrs de Paris. 2,242 pp.
  2. ^ a b c d Vicheara Houn. (2012). "PART III: Overthrow of Prince Sihanook: NEW YEAR'S DAY, APRIL 1975", Bamboo Promise: Prison without Walls. IN, United States: Abbott Press. 636 pp. ISBN 978-1-4582-0223-9
  3. ^ Danico, Mary Yu (2014). Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4833-6560-2.
  4. ^ Nhem, Chea Bunly (22 May 2004). "Let Them Eat Cake". The Cambodia Daily. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
  5. ^ Singh, Atom Sunil; Indigenous Games of Cambodia and Manipur