words by Yut Chhon
Cambodia is a country of many holy and sacred holidays, mostly celebrated based on Buddhism or Hinduism tradition. One of the most important (and fun!) events of the year is the Choul Ch’nam Th’mey holiday – which translates to ‘Enter the New Year’. It’s also known as Sangkranti which indicates the original root of the celebrations (a Hindu festival).
According to Cambodian traditional belief, there are seven divine angels (who are also sisters) that rule the universe. The divine sisters take turns to rule and protect, and to welcome in the Cambodian Year. The divine angel who will welcome in the new year is Tungsa Tevy, and is adorned with a beautiful ruby necklace and wears pomegranate flowers tucked behind her ears. She carries a disc of power in her right hand, and a shell with her left. She loves to eat fig fruits and to travel on her mighty Garuda (a mythical bird creature with a mix of eagle and human features).
Unlike many parts of the world Cambodia still follows the solar calendar, and marks the Cambodian New Year to fall on 14th, 15th and 16th of April. The celebrations last for three full days and the festival is a national public holiday. Cambodians take this time off from work, including traditional roles like agriculture as it also marks the end of the rice harvesting season – it is time to party after months of hard work!
Countrywide celebrations take place and are enjoyed with families and friends, but also with our wider community with public parties. You’ll find celebrations bursting with delicious Khmer food, traditional games, decorations around homes and local Wats (pagodas), loud music, and ceremonies at Buddhist temples. If you find yourself in Cambodia during this time, you will be welcome to join the festivities at any pagodas across the country. If you are in Siem Reap this year, the celebrations are being held at the Royal Garden in front of Raffles Hotel.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year!