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Cambodian New Year

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Cambodian New Year (បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី) or Chol Chnam Thmey in the Khmer language, literally "Enter the New Year", is the name of the Cambodian holiday that celebrates the new year. The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year's Day, most commonly April 13th but sometimes on the 14th in keeping with the lunar calendar. Khmer living in other countries may change the dates so as to celebrate on the weekend. This time of the year is at the end of the harvesting season. The farmers enjoy the fruits of their harvest and relax before the rainy season begins.

The numbering is based on the Buddhist calendar. For 2012 it is 2556 BE (Buddhist Era),

The three days of the New Year

Maha Songkran

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. The members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha's teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times 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.


Wanabat is the name of the second day of the New Year celebration. People contribute charity to the less fortunate, help the poor, servants, homeless people, 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 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 Year traditions

In temples, people erect a sand hillock on 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 disciples which are Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, and Maha Kassapa. There is another tradition, that is pouring water or plaster on someone.

Khmer New Year is a time to prepare special dishes. One of these is 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.[1]

Khmer games

Cambodia is home to a variety of games played to transform the dullest days into a memorable occasion. These games are very similar to the games, which are played in Manipur, a northeastern state of India. [2] Through-out the Khmer New Year, street corners often are crowded with friends and families enjoying a break from routine, filling their free time dancing and play. Typically Khmer games help maintain one's mental and physical dexterity. The body's blood pressure, muscle system and brain all are challenged and strengthened in the name of fun.

  • "Tres"

A game played by throwing and catching a ball with one hand while trying to catch an increasing number of sticks with the other hand. Usually, pens or chopsticks are used as the sticks to be caught.

  • "Chol Chhoung"

A game played especially on the first nightfall of the Khmer New Year by two groups of boys and girls. Ten or 20 people comprise each group, standing in two rows opposite each other. One group throws the "chhoung" to the other group. When it is caught, it will be rapidly thrown back to the first group. If someone is hit by the "chhoung," the whole group must dance to get the "chhoung" back while the other group sings.

  • "Chab Kon Kleng"

A game played by imitating a hen as she protects her chicks from a crow. Adults typically play this game on the night of the first New Year's Day. Participants usually appoint a person with a strong build to play the hen leading many chicks. Another person is picked to be the crow. While both sides sing a song of bargaining, the crow tries to catch as many chicks as possible as they hide behind the hen.

  • "Bos Angkunh"

A game played by two groups of boys and girls. Each group throws their own "angkunh" to hit the master "angkunhs," which belong to the other group and are placed on the ground. The winners must knock the knee of the losers with the "angkunh." "Angkunh" is the name of an inedible fruit seed, which looks like the knee bone.

  • "Leak Kanseng"

A game played by a group of children sitting in circle. Someone holding a "kanseng" (Cambodian towel) twisted into a round shape walks around the circle while singing a song. The person walking secretly tries to place the "kanseng" behind one of the children. If that chosen child realizes what is happening, he or she must pick up the "kanseng" and beat the person sitting next to him or her.

  • "Bay Khom"

A game played by two children in rural or urban areas during their free time. Ten holes are dug in the shape of an oval into a board in the ground. The game is played with 42 small beads, stones or fruit seeds. Before starting the game, five beads are put into each of the two holes located at the tip of the board. Four beads are placed in each of the remaining eight holes. The first player takes all the beads from any hole and drops them one by one in the other holes. He or she must repeat this process until they have dropped the last bead into a hole lying beside an empty one. Then they must take all the beads in the hole that follows the empty one. At this point, the second player begins to play. The game ends when all the holes are empty. The player with the greatest number of beads wins the game.

See also


  1. Nhem, Chea Bunly (Saturday, May 22-23, 2004). "Let Them Eat Cake" (in English). The Cambodia Daily. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  2. Singh, Atom Sunil; Indigenous Games of Cambodia and Manipur
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Cambodian New Year. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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