Cambodian New Year (Khmer) or Chaul Chnam Thmey, in the Khmer language, literally "Enter Year New", is the name of the Cambodian holiday that celebrated the New Year. The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year's day, which usually falls on April 13th or 14th, which is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. Khmer's living abroad may choose to celebrate during a weekend rather than just specifically April 13th through the 15th. The Khmer New Year coincides with the traditional solar new year in several parts of India, Myanmar and Thailand.
Cambodians also use Buddhist Era to count the year based on the Buddhist calendar. For 2011, it is 2555 BE (Buddhist Era).
Maha Songkran, derived from Sanskrit Maha Sankranti, is the name of the first day of the new year celebration. It is the ending 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 teaching by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three time before 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 Wanabat 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 the monastery.
Tngay Leang Saka
Tngay Leang Saka is the name of the third day of the new year celebration. Buddhists cleanse the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is the symbol that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them, best wishes and good advice for the future.
New Years Customs
In temples, people erect a sand hillock or temple grounds. They mound up a big pointed hill of sand or dome in the center which represents sakyamuni satya, 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 disciple: Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, and Maha Kassapa. There is another tradition....pouring water or liquid plaster (a mixture of water with some chalk powder) on someone.
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.
Cambodia is home to a variety of games played to transform the dull days into memorable occasions. These games are similar to those played at Manipur, a north eastern state in India. 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. The body's blood pressure, muscle system and brain are challenged and strengthened for fun.
Chab Kon Kleng