Have you ever heard of a New Year celebration that lasts long for 3 days? Well if you manage to visit to Cambodia during the New Year, you may witness it. The Chaul Chnam Thmey or the New Year in Cambodia is widely celebrated by the locals with grandeur and pomp. It starts on the 12th of April and lasts till 14th of April, and also signifies the end of harvesting season in the country.
Like all Asian New Year celebration, visiting temple to seek the blessing of the Almighty is a common part of the culture and traditions. Interestingly they build hills from sand near the temple grounds after which it is decorated with religious flags, one being at the top and the other four round the sides. This is done to show the five disciples of Lord Buddha.
Another tradition during the New Year is to sprinkle auspicious water on the faces of the people during the dawn, on the chest in the afternoon and on the toes after the sun sets. Some people throw colored waters on each other which is done to wish a colorful and joyful life in future. Traditionally people throw colored powder also.
All the three days of the celebration has significance of its own. Day one or the Moha Sangkran is celebrated by the Cambodians as an arrival of God and his angels on earth. So people clean their houses from one corner to the other just to welcome these holy spirits. They light up their homes and burn candles and incense sticks. They buy and wear new clothes and worship Lord Buddha with flowers, eatables, drinks, scented water put on banana leaves. Different types of food are prepared only to be distributed among the monks against their blessings.
The second day is known as the wanabat which is dedicated to gifting and charity. This day also is meant for family gatherings where people come to meet their loved ones from far away. They exchange clothes and other gifts and enjoy the stay together; It is a custom to give food and belongings to the poor on this day which will increase the donor’s wealth.
The third and the final day has a different significance of its own. The Cambodians cleanse as well as decorate the religious deities with aromatic water and flowers respectively. During the evening, they enjoy the ceremony of Pithi Srang Preah which is meant for Lord Buddha. His statues are bathed along with other priests, preachers, etc. the Cambodians believe that this will bring good rains for the year ahead and that will ensure good harvests. The youngsters wash the feet of the elders to seek blessings from them. This tradition symbolizes forgiveness and repentance for everything that happened in the last year. they set their mind free to welcome the New Year with a New spirit.
Apart from these, it is customary to play certain traditional games during the New Year like, Tres, Chol, Chab Kon Kleng, Bos Angkunh, Leak Kanseng, Bay Khom etc to lighten up the spirit of the brand New Year ahead.