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EVENTS and FESTIVALS IN CAMBODIA  

The Kingdom of Cambodia has a wealth of traditional and International festivals. For traditional cultural festival dated according to the Cambodia lunar calendar. All of these festivals are influenced by the concepts of Buddhism, Hinduism, and royal cultures. The festivals, which serve as a source of great joy, merriment and Cambodia’s national colors, play a major role in influencing tourists’ opinions, behaviors, and options. Most of these are a time of great rejoicing for the predominantly urban and the rural populace. Nowadays the whole nation unites in understanding its cultural values and traditions. The following are the most importance of the celebrations organized throughout the year.

Khmer New Year (Mid April)

The Khmer New Year, or 'Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei' in the Khmer language, is commonly celebrated on mid April each year all over the country; it’s also the same time of Thai and Laos New Year. This festival marks the turn of the year based on the ancient Khmer lunar calendar and also marks the end of the harvest season when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor and relax before the start of the rainy season. The New Year holidays last for three days. Khmer people decorate their homes to please the Heaven God and many people can be seen on the streets armed with small bags of water, perfume, powder, and water pistols to bless people passing by their villages. This festival is one of the happiest times of the year with joyous smiling faces everywhere you turn.

During this time, people engage in traditional Khmer games; they play such games as the Bas Angkunh 'seed throwing', Chaol Chhoung 'twisted-scarf throwing', Leak Kanséng 'twisted-scarf hide', tug of war, cock fighting, etc. Throughout the country, people merrily dance the traditional Khmer forms of the Ram Vong, Ram Kbach, Saravan, and Lam Leav in the open.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony (May)

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony, or 'Bon Chroat Preah Nongkoal' in the Khmer language has a deep connections with the Earth and farming in Cambodia and there is a deep astrological belief that royal Oxen known in Khmer as Sapheak Reach, has an instrumental role in determining the fate of the agricultural harvest each year. Every year, in May, this cultural ceremony takes place in the large park next to the Royal Palace and in front of the National Museum. The King plays a key role in driving the Oxen and depicting real ploughing activities in the process of growing rice. The Ox is given a selection of foods and beverages to consume and the royal soothsayers interpret what the Ox has eaten. For this festival both men and women can be seen wearing brightly colored traditional Khmer costume.

Water Festival (November)

This vast festival, a spectacle to behold, is probably the most exorbitant festival held each year in November. It is usually celebrated for three days of the waxing moon and the 1st of the waning moon of the month of Kadek (lunar calendar). Up to a million people from all walks of life from all over the country flock to the banks of Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers in Phnom Penh to watch hundreds of brightly colored boats with over 50 paddlers battle it out for top honors. The boat racing dates back to ancient times marking the strengths of the powerful Khmer marine forces during the reign of the great king Jayavarman VII from he effort to force traditional enemy from the Khmer Empire. In the evening brightly decorated floats cruise along the river represent of each Ministry of Cambodia government and complimenting the fireworks displays.

The festival marks the changing of the flow of the Tonle Sap and is also seen as thanksgiving to the Mekong River for providing the country with fertile land and abundant fish. It is at this time when the river flow reverts to its normal down stream direction. The remarkable phenomenon that is the Tonle Sap sees the river flowing upstream during the rainy season and then change direction as the rains cease and the swollen Tonle Sap Lake empties back into the Mekong River leaving behind vast quantities of fish.

Bon Pchum Ben or All souls day (September)

Pchum Ben is the most remarkable national rite in Cambodia. It is also a religious belief. This rite is held when the moonlight becomes less until dark. It is the month of Pheak Trabot (September-October). This festival lasts fifteen day, from one Roach to fifteen Roach (lunar calendar). Pchum Ben is a meaning full festival, because one Buddha Siddarta Gautama, was afraid of senility and death, so he left his palace in cider to find way to reach Nirvana. He fasted for six months his body became weaker and weaker, and left that he realized what he had done. It couldn’t help him to reach enlightenment thus, he resumed to eat. At that time, he decided to receive food from Miss Socheata. She cooked very carefully. We celebrate Pchum Ben in order to dedicate to the souls of our ancestors, relatives, friends who had gone to another world or to make up national unity. During the Pchum Ben festival, people bring food to the temple for the monks and to feed hungry ghosts who could be their late ancestors, relatives or friends. Pagodas are usually crowded with people taking their turn to make offerings and to beg the monks to pray for their late ancestors and loved ones. Many remain behind at the temple to listen to Buddhist sermons.

"Hungry ghost" is one of the six modes of existence in the ‘Wheel of Life’. Hungry ghosts or ‘Preta’ which means ‘departed ones’ in Sanskrit, are pitiable creatures with huge, empty stomachs and pinhole mouths; their necks are so thin they cannot swallow, so they remain hungry.  It is believed that beings are reborn as hungry ghosts because of their greed, envy and jealousy.

Cambodians leave food offerings on altars and around temple grounds for hungry ghosts.  Pchum Ben is a festival that features food and entertainment for such hungry ghosts.

National Independence Day (November 9)

This important ceremony takes place at the site of the Independence Monument at the junction of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards. This ceremony celebrates Cambodia's gaining of independence from France in 1953 by the great effort of the king Norodom Sihanouk. All over the city flags adorn the shop fronts and bunting stretched over all the main thoroughfares as a sign of national pride.

National liberation Day (January 7)

One of the more recent additions to the festival calendar, this day marks the end of the Khmer Rouge Regime in 7 January 1979. However for many Khmers it also marks the start of the Vietnamese regime seen as another period of foreign occupancy.

Chinese New Year (February)

Due to the large number of people of Chinese descent who run much of Cambodia's business enterprises; and also Vietnamese immigrant communities, the Chinese New Year is widely celebrated, especially in Phnom Penh. No Chinese festival would be complete without fireworks and this time of year is no exception with many wealthy families organizing their own private displays which light up the skies for all to see. And big drinking time of the year for Chinese, Khmer, and Vietnamese who lives in Cambodia

International New Year (January 1)

Since, the country opened for International tourism in 1993, the Khmer people getting to know more about western culture via foreigner who came to live and doing business in Cambodia. The city khmer people also celebrate Christmas Eve and International New Year day. But this event usually see a small group of people who involved working with tourism in the country only.

Golf event

Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open golf tournament

Cambodia is regular host to the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open golf tournament. There are many golf courses in Cambodia; all of which are of international standard. The Angkor Golf Resort is designed by six-time big winner Nick Faldo and it is claimed that this course could emerge as not only the finest in Cambodia, but one of the best in the Asia-Pacific region. This 18-Hole course is a challenging 7279 yards, par 72 that is built to challenge all levels of golfers and has been rated by the US PGA.

Angkor Wat International Half Marathon (Late December)

Cambodia is also host to the International Half Marathon annually. The event attracts thousands of runners from more than 40 countries around the world come to see this international event held in the spectacular setting that is Angkor.

Other Holidays and Festivals

Cambodia also celebrates other special days including: King and Queen birthday, International Women's Day (8 March), International Worker's Day (1 May), Genocide Day (9 May), Vesak Bucha Day - the anniversary of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha (Late May), Chol Vassa - Buddhist Lent (July), and International Human Rights Day (10 December).

 

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