a wealth of traditional and international festivals. Most of these
are a time of great rejoicing for the predominantly rural populace,
many of whom flock to the capital to join in the celebrations
and witness the organized fireworks displays which accompany the
festivals. It is at these times the nation unites with a shared
common understanding of values and traditions and they are looked
forward to with great expectation. Even in times of hardship people
try even harder to make these times special. All the traditional
festivals are influenced by the concepts of Buddhism, Hinduism
and royal cultures. The following are the most important of the
celebrations organized throughout the year.
festival (October or November)
festival is probably the most extravagant festival in the calendar.
Over three days starting with the last full moon day in October
or the beginning of November 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 Khmer empire. In
the evening brightly decorated floats cruise along the river prior
to and complimenting the fireworks displays. there is often a
parallel festival at Angkor Wat and although it is smaller in
scale it is just as impressive due to the backdrop of Angkor Wat.
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.
This is the
most culturally and religiously significant event of the year
and is celebrated in September. This festival of souls concentrates
on blessing the souls of ancestors, relatives, and friends who
have passed away. All Buddhist temples, especially Wat Phnom,
are the focal points for this festival and most Cambodians visit
the temples to make traditional offerings and pray.
Sihanouk's Birthday Celebration (October 31)
revering the country's influential king take place in late October
or early November. People from all over the country come to the
capital to join in celebrations and festivities held throughout
the capital. Often the King's birthday and Water festivals coincide
resulting in a mammoths celebration in front of the Royal Palace
and along the riverfront. Provincial villagers who would ordinarily
have no reason to visit Phnom Penh will save up and make this
occasion their sole visit to the capital.
New Year's Day (Mid April)
at the same time as the Thai New Year all over the country, this
festival marks the turn of the year based on the ancient Khmer
calendar and also marks the end of the harvest done during the
year. Cambodians decorate their homes to please the Heaven God
and many people can be seen on the streets armed with small bags
of water and water pistols to bless people passing by. This festival
is one of the happiest times of the year with joyous smiling faces
everywhere you turn. Cambodians do recognize International New
Year on 1 January but there are no celebrations then.
Festival (November or December)
is a showcase of performing arts with Angkor Wat as a backdrop.
Performers from all over Asia attend this festival performing
great epic stories from myths and legends, including the Ramayana,
with their own national dance costumes and musical and rhythmic
inter-pretations. King Sihanouk often attends when he is in residence
in Siem Reap and other dignatories come to witness this wonderful
Ploughing Day (May)
a deep connnection with the Earth and farming, and there is a
deep astrological belief that the Ox 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 Ox 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.
Day (November 9)
ceremony takes place at the site of the Independence Monument
at the juntion of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards. This ceremony
celebrates Cambodia's gaining of independence from France in 1953.
All over the city flags adorn the shop fronts and bunting stretched
over all the main thoroughfares as a sign of national pride.
New Year (January or 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 whigh light up the skies
for all to see.
One of the
more recent additions to the festival calendar, this day marks
the end of the Khmer Rouge Regime. However for many Khmers it
also marks the start of the Vietnamese regime seen as another
period of foreign occupancy.
Half Marathon (Late December)
Half Marathon is held at Angkor Wat and attracts competitors from
all over the world. Thousands of people come to see this international
event held in the spectacular setting that is Angkor.
Holidays and Festivals
celebrates other special days including: 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), Ploughing the Holy Furrow (Late
May), Chol Vassa - Buddhist Lent (July), and International Human
Rights Day (10 December).
events and feasts in Cambodia
International New Year's Day
07 January Victory Day
08 March International Women's Day
13-16 April Khmer New Year
01 May International Labor Day
07 May Bon Visak Bochea
11 May Bon Chrat Preah Neangkoal
01 June International Children's Day
18 June Birthday of Samdech Prereach AkeakMohesey Norodom Monineath
24 September Constitution Day and Recoronation of H.M Preah Bat
Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk
29 September Pchum Ben festival
October Beginning of Bun Kathen
30-31 October 01-November King Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom
09 November Independent Day
10-12 November Water and Moon festival
10 December Human Rights Day