Every country in the world celebrates New Year (Bon Chol Chhnam Thmey) in their own unique way, and Cambodia is no different. This time of the year marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of a fresh new year. What makes Khmer New Year so special is that the celebrations do not only last one night, and it falls on different dates each year.
For 2019 it is celebrated from 14th April to 17th April, with the public holidays lasting till the 18th.
There are a few things to note during this time, seeing that the usual 24-7 impression changes and most places in Cambodia come to a halt. Places, including but not limited to restaurants and shops, close for the new year while people visit their families in the province.
It is of utter importance to book all accommodation and transport in advance as people are travelling all over the country, and it is buzzing with tourists and locals. Most of the cities are, however, considerably less busy because most inhabitants close their businesses to visit their families back in the provinces, and expats are prone to take a small holiday elsewhere.
Khmer New Year falls under high season, and accommodation and tour prices might be slightly elevated.
Where to Go
Siem Reap is lively during the New Year. A three-day festival takes place at the Angkor Temples called Angkor Sankranta. Locals and tourists alike flock to the city to partake in traditional games, feasts, music and treats.
The Province is the most lively during this time with hundreds of families reuniting to walk into a new year together. The air is filled with music, laughter and the smell of “grandmommy’s cooking”.
Day 1 - Day of Protection
It is believed that a higher power is appointed to bring protection throughout the coming year. Khmer folk clean and decorate their homes and wear new clothes as a sign of respect. Offerings of fruit, incense, lotus flowers, food, and sodas are placed in spirit houses at the entrances of their homes.
Day 2 - Day of Giving
Parents and elders receive gifts, while children are gifted with new clothes and money. Many donations of used goods are given to less fortunate families or individuals.
In the evening people visit the Pagodas to receive blessings from monks and to show their respects.
Day 3 - A New Beginning
Monks are visited for blessings and people join in festivities in the afternoon. These gatherings often flow into the evening and ready the Khmer people for a good new year ahead.
It is definitely an experience to be enjoyed by all visitors and locals alike, and no matter where in Cambodia you find yourself you are guaranteed to have an incredible celebration.