Cambodia Festival & Holiday
+ January 01, International New Year's Day
This holiday commemorates the fall of the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979 and honors those lost in the genocide and who sacrificed in retaking the country. Colorful ceremonies are held at the Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach.)
+ January 23, Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is not a legal or official holiday in Cambodia but is widely celebrated anyway, primarily by those of Chinese and part Chinese descent and ethnic Vietnamese. This year the Year of the Rat will come to an end and the Year of the Ox begins. Red and yellow are the colors of the day and celebrants decorate the homes and workplaces in tune with the holiday, preparing a festive displays of offerings including red pig, drinks, fruits, cigarettes and other treats. Traditional ‘lion dancers’ can be seen performing at homes and businesses across town for several days around New Years Day. On the night of New Year’s Eve people flock to the pagodas to make offerings. Wat Phnom is one of the busiest and most popular pagodas, especially New Years Eve midnight.
Falling on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month, Meak Bochea Day commemorates a great meeting of Buddha and monks in which there were four significant events and where Buddha gave an oration laying out the principles of his teachings. Meak Bochea is an important Buddhist holiday though it is not as conspicuously celebrated as other holidays such as Visaka Boche later in the year. The pagodas are quite active and colorful on this day
Along with Ph’chum Benh and the Water Festival, Khmer New Year is one of the most important and popular holidays of the year, generating a festive air of parties and visits to the pagoda. In the weeks leading up to the holiday children and teens play special holiday games in the streets. Come New Years eve beautiful offerings of food, drink and incense are set on palm-frawned tables in front of homes and the New Year enters at an hour designated by the lunar calendar, not necessarily at midnight. The New Year is traditionally accompanied by the practice of tossing water and powder on friends and passers-by, and though the practice is discouraged in the city, the area around Wat Phnom still sees a lot of good natured water throwing on New Year.
+ May 05, Visaka Bochea Day
Often referred to as ‘Buddha's birthday,’ the holiday actually takes in the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha. The faithful attend pagoda, make offerings and engage in kind and charitable acts and reverent behavior. A colorful, busy day at the pagodas.
+ May 09, Royal Ploughing Ceremony (Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal)
The Royal Ploughing ceremony marks the beginning of the rainy season and the planting season. In a ceremony led by the King or other high official, highly adorned sacred cows plough a sacred furrow and then are led to trays containing rice, corn, beans and other foods. Agricultural predictions are made based on the quantity and order in which the cows eat the food. Ceremonies are usually held next to the Royal Palace, in front of the National Museum.
The birthday of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromoneath NORODOM SIHAMONI's.
The birthday of Her Majesty Samdech Preah Reach Aka Mohesey NORODOM MONINEATH SIHANOUK's.
+ October 14-16, Bonn Pchum Ben
Pchum Ben generates an air of spiritual reverence and holiday expectation throughout the country. Along with Khmer New Year and the Water Festival, Pchum Benh is one of the most important Khmer holidays of the year. It is a holiday to honor and care for the spirits of ancestors, said to return to earth during this period. People travel to pagodas to make offerings of food, incense and money to help ease spirits’ burden. This is a colorful, photogenic time at the pagodas. All government offices and many business close for the holiday.
+ October 29, Coronation Day Anniversary of the coronation of His Majesty King NORODOM SIHAMONI of Cambodia. The Palace is lighted at night and always looking its best at this holiday.
+ November 27-29, Water and Moon Festival
Bonn Om Touk, also known as the Water Festival and the Boat Race Festival, celebrates the reversing of the current in the Tonle Sap River and marks the beginning of the fishing season. Traditional long-boat races are held on the Tonle Sap River centered in front of the Royal Palace. Dozens of colorful dug-out row boats compete for prizes and honors. Fireworks and a water-borne parade of lighted barges cap events in the early evening. People and vendors pack the riverfront parks to watch the races and the whole area takes on a carnival atmosphere. The best views are from hotel balconies and the restaurants such as the FCC overlooking the river.
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