Khmer New Year, the Year of Monkey (Vok) 2548.
Cambodian Buddhists in Western Canada celebrate New Year Day early
There are at least 300 families of Cambodian people living in Calgary and the vicinity of Alberta province gather together to celebrate Cambodian New Year.
It gives the favor like in their motherland as the attendants are eagerly and ready to welcome New Coming Year during the 13th, 14th, 15th of April. But here, people celebrate early in the 2nd, 3rd of April according to the situation and their busy lives. Certainly, people here could choose free days and celebrate this auspicious ceremony only on Saturday and Sunday.
New Year is the most popular holiday in Cambodia. The joyous celebration is held in mid-April and lasts for three days. The celebration includes gathering at the Buddhist Temple for prayers and food, as well as classical dances, music and traditional games.
In Khmer(cah'MY) the New Year celebration is called chaul chnam thmey (CHOOL chah'NAHM tah'MAY) which means entering the New Year. The greeting for Happy New Year is sur sdey chnam thmey ( SOO-ur sah'DAY chah'NAHM tah'MAY) or Happy New Year.
The date of the New Year celebration is set by astrologers by the lunar calendar to determine the exact moment when the new animal protector arrives. It falls around April 13 or 14 in the month of Chet., the end of the dry season in agricultural Cambodia.
Like the Chinese, Cambodians observe the 12 year cycle of designating each year by the name of an animal. Sanskrit numerals from 1 to 10 are sometimes combined cyclically with each name so that it takes 60 years to complete the cycle of all number and animal combinations.
Preparations are made well ahead for the New Year celebration in Cambodia. Silk is used to make new clothing. Men and boys typically wear white round neck shirts and black pants, while the women wear knitted shirts and beautifully decorated robes. Houses are thoroughly cleaned to rid them of evil spirits. The new clothes and clean house symbolize a new beginning.
Buddhism plays a central role in the New Year celebration as well as in everyday life. New Year is a time to show respect for elders, including parents, grandparents and teachers. By offering charity to those less fortunate, by doing good deeds and showing forgiveness, one gains merit in the coming New Year.
New Year is a time to celebrate with families and friends, so traveling during the holiday is common.
The three days of New Year each have a special name and activity. The three days are called Maha Sangkrant (Moh-hah sahng-KRAHN), Vana Bat (WAHNA BAHT), and Loeung Sack (LEONG SAHR). Maha Sangkrant is the day of entry and marks the arrival of the New Angel, Thevada (DAY-veh-dah). Each year has a guardian angel who arrives at the moment the old year ends and the new year arrives.
At a time specified by astrologers, the Buddhist Temple's drum or bell signals the arrival of the New Year. Home altars, have been prepared to receive the New Angel with five candles, five incense holders, flowers, fruit, bay sey (BUY SAY) and a bowl of perfumed water. The buy sey is a section of banana tree trunk with legs, to which 3, 5 or 7 layers of banana leaves, rolled up in finger shapes, have been attached as a farewell to the former angel and welcome to the New Angel. Families pray for happiness, health and good crops.
On the morning of Maha Sangkrant, families visit the temple, wear their new clothes and bring food for the monks. After prayers, the afternoon is for playing games such as jhun (CHOH'ohng), a scarf tossing game, and teanh proat (DIEN PROHT), a tug-of-war game on the Temple grounds.
In the evening the community builds a sand mountain, preferably near a boddhi tree. The boddhi tree has special significance because it was under such a tree that Buddha slept, meditated and achieved enlightenment. The grains of sand are believed to be equal to one's health and happiness.
Vana Bat is the second day of celebration, which includes more praying. Children show respect and gratitude by giving their elders gifts of clothes, baked goods and money. Gifts are given to servants and the poor. After completing their good deeds, the children play games, dance and sing at the Temple. The sand mountain continues to be added to.
On the third day, Loeung Sack, the monks
bless the sand mountain. The Buddha statues are bathed with perfumed water,
smaller statues are submerged, while the large ones are washed by hand.
The cleansing of the statues is a good deed, thought to bring good luck,
merit and rain for the coming crops. After the statues are cleaned, people
wash themselves, the elders, monks and teachers with the perfumed water.
The water ceremony (pouring or throwing water at each other) is to bestow
good wishes and blessing on each other.