The Khmer New Year 2022: A celebration after ceasing for two consecutive years

Sereyrath Em

University of Szeged

Szeged, Hungary (2022, April 10)

Pdf file: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iuFDSvxccbt9n8cPSJrP4QI_kWvED_3h/view?usp=drivesdk

Khmer New Year (Cambodian New Year)

Introduction

Because there is no rain and it gets quite hot in April, Khmer people may find free time. This allows Khmer farmers to take a vacation after working very hard to pick rice crops from their fields to earn money. As a result, April is the best month for Cambodian Khmer to celebrate the New Year.

Cambodia celebrates Khmer New Year, also known as Cambodian New Year, as a three-day public holiday. It is known as “Chaul Chnam Thmey” in Khmer, which means “begin the new year.” It is rooted in the ancient solar new year, which was celebrated in India and Asia. It occurs on the 13th or 14th of April.

What is Khmer New Year?

Cambodians have a lot of vacations throughout the year. The Khmer New Year is the most important. It is observed for three days, beginning on the 13th or 14th of April, when the harvesting season comes to an end. The Khmer New Year is a special occasion for Cambodians to spend time with their families, friends, and community. It is a Buddhist festival that is observed across Cambodia (“What is Khmer new year?,” 2020).

So, how does the Khmer New Year take place? Each day has its own set of customs.

Maha Songkran (Day 1)

The first day of Songkran is known as Maha Songkran. People place fruit in front of their houses as a tribute to the gods on the first day of the Khmer New Year. They think that the new gods will come to eat the fruits and bless the house with their benefits.

Virak Vanabat (Day 2)

The second day is known as Virak Vanabat. People visit their relatives on the second day, giving gifts to their parents, having a pleasant meal with them, or going somewhere together.

Vearak Loeng Sak (Day 3)

The third day is known as Vearak Loeng Sak. People often send food to the pagoda for their ancestors who have passed away throughout the three days (“What is Khmer New Year?,” 2020).

Khmer New Year’s customs

On the grounds of temples, people construct sand hillocks. They construct a big pointed sand mound or dome in the center to represent Valuka Chaitya, the Tavatimsa stupa where the Buddha’s hair and diadem are buried. The Buddha’s favorite pupils are Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, and Maha Kassapa, and their stupas are surrounded by four smaller ones. For Srang Preah (Sráng Preăh), another rite that entails pouring water or liquid plaster, a mix of water and chalk powder, on elderly relatives or people, mostly the younger generation is responsible for pouring the water (“Cambodian New Year,” 2004).

The Khmer New Year is also a time for unique foods to be prepared. A “kralan” (krâlan) is a cake made from cooked rice, beans or peas, shredded coconut, and coconut milk. The mixture is placed inside a bamboo stick and gently baked (“Cambodian New Year,” 2004).

Traditional games

Cambodia has a number of traditional games (Lbêng Prâchéaprey) that are performed to turn ordinary days into memorable ones. These games resemble those played in Manipur, India’s northeastern state. During the Khmer New Year, street corners are generally busy with friends and family taking a break from their daily routines by dancing and playing games. Khmer games are typically used to preserve mental and physical agility (“Cambodian New Year,” 2004).

Teang Prut, Chaol Chhoung, Bos Ongkunh, Leak Konsaeng, Domderm Sluk Chaue, Sdach Jung, Kuorng/Ktey, Klaeng Jab Kone Mun, and Baykhom are some of the traditional games performed during the Khmer New Year. Many of these games are played not only during New Year’s Eve parties but also at other events (see “5 activities to do during Khmer new year in Siem Reap,” n.d.; “Cambodian New Year,” 2004; “Khmer New Year in Cambodia: The most attractive and traditional games,” 2021).

History of Khmer New Year

The Khmer New Year event evolved from Brahmanism, a branch of Hinduism that was the Khmer religion prior to Buddhism. Buddhism then became affiliated with the festival and eventually assumed all of the major roles in the celebration (see Marissa, 2017).

Khmer New Year 2022

Khmer New Year always lasts for three days. In 2022, the Khmer New Year is scheduled to begin on the 14th of April and end on the 16th of April. This celebration is very special. Due to the global widespread of the COVID-19, Cambodia did not celebrate the Khmer New Year in 2020 and 2021. However, in this 2022, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, has allowed all the Cambodian people to celebrate the New Year. The decision was made following the successful combat of the COVID-19.

According to Khmer Times (2022), Prime Minister Hun Sen has also allowed the people living in four provinces, namely Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng, and Preah Vihear to lift mandatory mask wearing. However, the people living in other territories still need to be careful with COVID-19 because it has not completely left Cambodia yet.

Table 1: Starting day of Khmer New Year from 2001 until 2050

GregorianDateAnimalsDay of the week GregorianDateAnimalsDay of the week
200113 AprilSnakeFriday202613 AprilHorseTuesday
200213 AprilHorseSaturday202713 AprilGoatThursday
200313 AprilGoatSunday202813 AprilMonkeySaturday
200413 AprilMonkeyTuesday202913 AprilRoosterSunday
200513 AprilRoosterWednesday203013 AprilDogMonday
200613 AprilDogThursday203113 AprilPigTuesday
200713 AprilPigFriday203213 AprilRatThursday
200813 AprilRatSunday203313 AprilOxFriday
200913 AprilOxMonday203413 AprilTigerSaturday
201013 AprilTigerTuesday203513 AprilRabbitSunday
201113 AprilRabbitWednesday203613 AprilDragonTuesday
201213 AprilDragonFriday203713 AprilSnakeWednesday
201313 AprilSnakeSaturday203813 AprilHorseThursday
201413 AprilHorseSunday203913 AprilGoatFriday
201513 AprilGoatMonday204013 AprilMonkeySunday
201613 AprilMonkeyWednesday204113 AprilRoosterMonday
201714 AprilRoosterFriday204213 AprilDogTuesday
201814 AprilDogSaturday204313 AprilPigWednesday
201913 AprilPigSaturday204413 AprilRatFriday
202013 AprilRatMonday204513 AprilOxSaturday
202114 AprilOxTuesday204613 AprilTigerSunday
202214 AprilTigerThursday204713 AprilRabbitMonday
202313 AprilRabbitFriday204813 AprilDragonWednesday
202413 AprilDragonSunday204913 AprilSnakeThursday
202513 AprilSnakeMonday205013 AprilHorseFriday
Source: Dates in Khmer calendar (“Cambodian New Year,” 2004, para. 14).

The author

Sereyrath Em is a government teacher of English with a higher education degree working at Kith Meng Brasat high school, a visiting lecturer at Chea Sim University of Kamchaymear (CSUK), and an Associate Editor at the Cambodian Education Forum (CEF). Prior to this, he was a secondary school teacher of English and Khmer language working at Darakum lower-secondary school between 2012 and 2015. In 2017, he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MA in TESOL) from Human Resource University (HRU), and in 2019, he graduated with a Master’ Degree in Educational Administration from National Institute of Education (NIE) with the support from Cambodia International Education Support Foundation (CIESF). He was also trained at Regional Language Center (RELC), Singapore, two times between early 2020 and early 2021 with regards to teaching listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Currently, he is a PhD student in Educational Sciences at the University of Szeged, Hungary.

Email: sereyrathem.edu@gmail.com

References

5 activities to do during Khmer new year in Siem Reap. (n.d.). Borei Angkor Resort & Spa | Hotel in Siem Reap Cambodia. https://www.boreiangkor.com/blog/5-activities-to-do-during-khmer-new-year-in-siem-reap

Cambodian New Year. (2004, November 11). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 10, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodian_New_Year

Khmer New Year in Cambodia: The most attractive and traditional games. (2021, December 30). Visit Angkor. https://www.visit-angkor.org/blog/khmer-new-year-cambodia-traditional-games/

Khmer Times. (2022, April 10). PM decides to lift mandatory mask wearing for 4 provinces. https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501056200/pm-decides-to-lift-mandatory-mask-wearing-for-4-provinces/?p=1056200

Marissa. (2017, January 24). A brief history of Khmer new year. Culture Trip. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/cambodia/articles/a-brief-history-of-khmer-new-year/

What is Khmer New Year? (2020, March 12). Phare, The Cambodian Circus. https://pharecircus.org/khmer-new-year/

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