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Learn about the History, Customs and Arrangements of the Khmer New Year

2024-04-12
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Summary:The traditional Khmer New Year, also known as "Sangkrant," is one of the most important national festivals and is widely celebrated in Cambodia.

The traditional Khmer New Year, also known as "Sangkrant,"  is one of the most important national festivals and is widely celebrated in Cambodia.

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Generally, Khmer New Year is held between 13th and 16th April or 14th and 17th April every year. All ministries, institutions, schools, and factories across the country are allowed to take holidays.


Khmer New Year's History

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The legend goes that… 

Once upon a time, there was a young man named Dhammabal Koma, who was the son of a rich man. Dhammabal Koma has finished his study of the three Vedas and can also speak the language of all birds. His talent and knowledge made him famous throughout the area.

One day, Kabil Moha Prum, who is the king of heaven, heard about the cleverness of Dhammabal Koma and wanted to challenge his intellectual ability by asking him to solve three riddles within seven days. The reward of his winning is that the king of heaven will cut off his own head, and if Dhammabal Koma cannot solve the riddles, he must also cut off his head too.

After six days of considering and finding the answers to the King of Heaven’s riddles, Dhammabal Koma has no sign of it. He was hopeless and thought that he would have to suffer his life for the King of Heaven tomorrow. So he decided to walk into a deep forest and kill himself for his shame. After a long time of struggling in the forest, Dhammabal Koma arrived at a big palm tree.  

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Too tired, he fell asleep under the tree. While he was not deeply asleep, he accidentally listened to the conversation of a vulture couple. The female vulture asked her husband about their food for tomorrow, and the male vulture replied that they would have Dhammabal Koma’s flesh for many days. Because he will not be able to solve the riddles. Curiously, the female vulture asked what the riddles were, and her husband replied:

1. Where is the charm in the morning?2. Where is the charm in the afternoon? 3. Where is the charm in the evening?

The male vulture then continues to tell his wife the answers:

1. In the morning, charm lies on people’s faces as they wash their faces before starting a new day.

2. In the afternoon, charm is on people’s chests as they bathe to cool their bodies from the afternoon heat.

3. In the evening, charm is at people’s feet as they clean their feet after a full day of work and get ready for bed.

After listening to the conversation of the vulture couple, Dhammabal Koma quickly recovered from tiredness and rushed back to his palace, waiting for the King of Heaven to answer his riddles.

As promised, Kabil Moha Prum cut off his own head, for he had been defeated. But before doing so, the King of Heaven called his seven daughters to him and advised that his head could not be dropped down on earth or the ocean; if not, the earth would be destroyed in fire or the ocean would be dried up. His head must be put on a platter, and his daughters must take turns carrying his head for the ceremonial circle around Mount Sumeru every year during the Sangkran date to bring happiness and good weather to the earth before bringing it to the Kuntheakmali temple in heaven.

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It should be noted that this year, the first day of the New Year is on Saturday, so a goddess named "Mohurea Tevy" wears a hairpin of the Trokeat flower and Nilerat jewelry. She favors deer meat. Her weapons are a disc and a trident. Peacock is her ride.


The Three Days of Khmer New Year

On the first day of Khmer New Year, it is called "Moha Songkranta." 

Khmer people who believe in Buddhism must prepare a table full of fruits, drinks, flowers, and other items, following the rules, as offerings to the new angel, God. 

Then people will offer at the time of the angels who will come down to earth by lighting incense and candles at their homes, and pray for blessings and good fortune for a whole year.

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The second day of the Khmer New Year is known as "Vearak Vanabat." Usually, on that day, people go to the pagoda to bring food, pies, and fruits to offer to the monks. In addition, there are also traditional games such as Chol Chhoung, Bos Angkunh, Leak Kon Saeng (Scarf Hidden Game), and other games, as well as singing and dancing traditional songs at pagodas and other regions in Cambodia.

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The third day of the New Year is "Veareak Laeung Sak." On that day, people will perform a ceremony, which is Pithi Srang Preah. Within this Phiti, people give a special bath or shower to Buddha statues, the monks, the elders, and parents to apologize for any mistakes that have been made and to get forgiveness and blessings from them. 

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This year, which provinces will celebrate Sangkrant?

1. Phnom Penh Capital (Wat Phnom)

Phnom Penh Capital Hall has announced that the government will organize "Wat Phnom Sankranti" at Wat Phnom Cultural and Historical Resort for 4 days from April 13–16, 2024, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m..

In this Sankranti, there are many traditional national programs and entertainment such as New Year Angel Reception, Parade of Buddha, Sand Hill, Srang Preah, Performing Arts, Traditional Dance, National Traditional Games (Teanh Prot or Traditional Rope Pulling, Bos Angkunh, Hit the Clay Pot, Chol Chhoung, Leak Kon Saeng or Scarf Hidden Game, Catch a Kite Bird, and Monkeys Take Leaves Game), as well as classical music-dance performances, showcasing ancient paintings and cultural artifacts.

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In addition to the Sankranti festival organized by the government, many small and large private enterprises also hold Sankranti ceremonies and related events, including 60M Boulevard, Aeon Mall Mean Chey, Chip Mong 271 Mega Mall, and other areas in Phnom Penh.


2. Siem Reap Province

Siem Reap Provincial Administration, in collaboration with the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, Siem Reap Province, will organize the traditional New Year celebration "Siem Reap Sankranti" for 4 days from April 13–16, 2024, at the Preah Reach Dom Nak Park (Royal Residence Park) in Siem Reap province and on both sides of the Dorng Steung Siem Reap, from the bridge of the former provincial tourism department to the bridge of Wat Damnak. The event will feature a variety of entertainment, including Khmer folk games, river boating, Siem Reap Sankranti Golf, food fairs, floating market visits, and concerts at night.

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It should be informed that the "Angkor Sankranti" event, which was held for the past 10 years from 2013 to 2023, will not be held in 2024 as the government replaces "Siem Reap Sankranti."


3. Battambang Province

Battambang Provincial Administration, in cooperation with the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, Battambang Province, will organize the event "Battambang Sankranti 2024" in order to create fun time for the people during the upcoming Khmer New Year.

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The "Battambang Sankranti 2024" event will take place from April 12–16, 2024, along Samdech Krolahom Sar Kheng Street in Net Yang High School and in front of the Battambang Museum of History (Provincial Hall) in Battambang City, Battambang province.

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This Sankranti event will also promote the beautiful traditional culture through the organization of various arts and games, especially to show national and international guests the traditions of lifestyle as well as the potential of Battambang province through the arrangement of products showcasing from 14 cities and districts, the Battambang food fair, the Chapei dang veng statue, the Giant Durian statue, and Naem Yeak. At night, there will be concerts, Khmer boxing competitions, and colorful lights in Battambang city, Battambang Province.


4. Kampot Province

Kampot Provincial Administration has announced that it will organize "Kampot Sankranti" 2024 for 3 days from April 14–16, 2024, to celebrate the traditional Khmer New Year.

The provincial administration will organize various entertainment programs, such as traditional games, art performances, concerts, dancing (Durian Statue Roundabout), fireworks (in front of Kampot Provincial Hall), and beautiful light decoration along the main public roads and resorts in the province.

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5. Kampong Speu Province

Kampong Speu Provincial Administration will organize "Kampong Speu Sankranti 2024" for 4 days from April 13–16, 2024, with folk games, song contests, and other entertainment at Samneang Ek Village in the area of Samdech Preah Sangkhareach Chuon Nath Park, playing in the boxing village in front of the Water Boat Forum, participating in the cool village of the Independence Monument, as well as other nightly entertainment such as Khmer boxing at the provincial sports center and a concert. At the same time, in the pagodas, there are also traditional Khmer New Year celebrations and folk games.

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Meanwhile, on April 7, 2024, in collaboration with the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, Kampong Speu Province organized the "Oxcart Race 2024" to participate in the preservation, promotion, development, and dissemination of tradition in accordance with the context of the current society in Kampong Speu province.

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6. Prey Veng Province

The provincial administration, in cooperation with the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, Prey Veng Province, will organize the "Prey Veng Sankranti 2024" event, which will take place over five days, from April 12–16, 2024.

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The event also includes modern concerts, dances, exhibitions of local products and materials, folk games, lanterns, and fireworks, especially since the province has a cool area (at Samdech Chea Sim Park), and other entertainment events include the Miss and Mister Competition, Senior Pageant, Chess, etc. (at Samdech Kralahom Sar Kheng Park) to create a fun atmosphere.


7. Sihanoukville Province

Sihanoukville will organize three big Sankranti and three more tourist destinations to organize this year's Khmer New Year event with a lot of fun for the tourists. 

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The first location is at Techo Square (Poy Ta Mong area) in Sangkat 4, the second is at Chum Teav Mao beach (near the Tree of Love) in Prey Nob district, the third place is in the Beh Ah Lai tourism area, and three other locations include Khmer Tver Ban place, which can be used in the area of Preah Thong Neang Neak roundabout and at Otres beach. At all locations, there are Khmer traditional games such as Bos Angkunh, Chol Chhoung, Teanh Prot, Leak Kon Saeng, Hit the Clay Pot, Leung Sasar Khlanh, dance, and so on.

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Apart from the capital provinces above, in other areas such as Kep, Koh Kong, Takeo, Pursat, Kandal, etc., there are also various events related to Sankranti.


Cambodia plans to add the Sankranti in Cambodia to the World Heritage List

Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Hun Manet said that the Royal Government is preparing to submit seven more Khmer cultural properties, including Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Banteay Chhmar, Angkor Borei, Phnom Da, Phnom Preah Reach Troap, Preah Khan Kompong Svay Temple, Boeng Mealea Temple, and Phnom Kulen, to the World Heritage List.

In addition, the Royal Government is also preparing to register more events, such as Kramas, Khmer weddings, and Sankranti, to spread Khmer cultures to the world.

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Samdech Thipadei Hun Manet also confirmed that he has asked the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to prepare documents to apply for "Sankranti" to register the intangible world heritage next year to be able to enter in 2026 without any doubts.

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Khmer New Year is not only a national holiday in Cambodia but also a meaningful cultural commemoration in Cambodia.

The festival emphasizes the attractiveness and importance of Cambodian cultural heritage, which provides a valuable link to the past and brings peace and prosperity to the future.

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Disclaimer: The re-forward articles on Compass website are for the purpose of conveying more information, and it does not mean that the Compass website agrees with its views or confirms the authenticity of its content. Article noted as "Source: Compass original", please note that the source from Compass. The content of the article is for reference only and should not consider as investment advice, and it does not mean that Compass agree with its views.

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