Khmer New Year, also known as Cambodian New Year is usually a three day public holiday in Cambodia. In Khmer, it is called 'Chaul Chnam Thmey', which means 'enter the new year'.
It is based on the traditional solar new year, that was observed in parts of India and Asia. It falls on either 13 April or 14 April.
The Khmer new year is marked by the sun entering the sign of Aries the Ram. This particular event was traditionally closely related to the Vernal Equinox. In ancient times, the dates of the sun entering Aries and the Vernal Equinox would have been even closer, but they have shifted due to an effect called procession, where the Earth wobbles on its axis over a 25,000 year period.
In Cambodia it marks the end of the harvest before the beginning of the rainy season.
How is Khmer New Year Celebrated?
Like most New Year holidays, Khmer New Year is full of tradition and rituals. The three days of celebration each have their own name and associated traditions:
First Day - Maha Songkran
The first day of the Khmer New Year is called 'Maha Songkran'. Similar to the Tamil tradition, it is believed that this was the day of creation. In Khmer tradition, the world was created by God's angels and to welcome the angels , people will clean their houses and illuminate them with candles. Families will place an idol of Buddha on an altar.
Second Day - Vanabot
Also known as Virak Wanabat, the second day of Khmer New Year is a time to think of the less fortunate. People offer charity by helping the poor, servants and homeless. Families may go to monasteries to pay respect to their ancestors, and it also a time for family members to exchange gifts.
Third Day - Leang Saka
On the third day of New Year celebrations Buddhists wash and clean statues of Lord Buddha with scented water. This cleansing is done to ensure that Cambodia will receive all the water it needs in the coming year. Another tradition is that children wash and bathe their parents and grandparents in return for blessing and good advice for the future.