Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival and national holiday in Cambodia, and the celebration last for three days.
Khmer New year starts on April the 13th, 14th or 15th depending on the ancient horoscope “Maha Sangkran”. The majority of the Cambodians are still farmers and they work with sowing, maintaining and harvesting their rice and fruit fields all year long except in April when it is too hot and dry. Therefore, the farmers rest during April and celebrate the New Year.
The first day is called “Maha Sangkran”, Sangkran means movement and refers to that the sun is moving into a new Zodiac sign and Maha means great. Some say that Maha Sangkran means welcome to the new spirits. In the morning the Cambodians will go to the temple and offer food to the monks and receive blessings. During this time the Cambodians clean and decorate their homes and prepare fruits and drinks on a table or in their spirit house to welcome the new spirits. Elderly people like to meditate or pray the Dharma because they believe that any spirit that comes to their home will stay with them throughout the whole year and take care of their family.
The second day is called “Wanabot” and it is the day that they offer gifts to parents, grandparents and elders. In the evening of this day many Cambodians will go to the temple and build a mountain of sand to remember their ancestors who have passed away and have the monks give them blessings of happiness and peace.
The third day is called “Leung Sakk” and this is the first day of the new year. In the morning the Cambodians go to the temple and perform a ceremony where the mountain of sand gets blessed. The last ceremony is called “Pithi Srang Preah” and the purpose of this ceremony is to honor and to give a special cleansing to Buddha Statues, the monks, elders, grandparents and parents. During this ceremony the participators apologize for any mistakes they have made during the last year.
The Khmer New Year is not only a great festival it is also an opportunity to pass on the Cambodian traditions to the next generation.