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Khmer Civilization and Tradition (in English)Posted: 2009-10-01 23:32:32   Replies: 0
Cambodia Festivals

Khmers' love of family social events, with music and an abundance of food, is best seen at the numerous festivals which are now once again being held throughout the country. There follows a list of the more important national and regional festivals in the Khmer calendar:

Victory Day, 7 January
This national holiday commemorates the fall of Pol Pots regime on 7 January 1979.

Lunar New Year, January-February
Lunar New Year is celebrated widely around the country by Cambodia's Chinese and Vietnamese communities. Although it is not a public holiday in Cambodia, many businesses are closed at this time.

Women's Day, 8 March
This national holiday is marked by colourful parades.

Bonn Chaul Chhnam Khmer New Year
Mid April, three days (14-16 April)
Bonn chaul chhnam is the Khmer equivalent of songkran in Thailand and phimai in Laos. Marking the end of the harvest season, it generally lasts for three days, during which time Cambodians clean and decorate their houses, make offerings at the local temple and throw water at each other as a form of blessing. City streets are decorated and brightly lit in the evenings and special cultural, entertainment and sporting events are organised especially for the occasion.

Bonn Visak Bochea, Mid May, one day
This nationwide festival commemorates the day of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. Held during the sixth full moon of the lunar calendar, it involves chanting, sermons and a candlelit procession to the wat.

Bonn Chrat Preah Nongkol - Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Late May, one day
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony dates back to the times when the reigning king traced the first furrows in the capital's sacred rice field, thus inaugurating the ploughing season. Today, the ritual is performed at the start of the rainy season in late May each year, with representatives of the king taking the role of King Meakh, who leads the yoke and plough, and Queen Mehour, who sows the seeds. After circling the field three times, the procession stops at a shrine where Brahmins invoke the protection of the gods. Sacred cows are then brought to eat from seven silver trays containing such things as rice, corn, beans, sesame seeds, grass, water and wine, and predictions are made for the coming year based upon what they select. The harvest will be good if they choose the cereals, rain will be abundant if they drink water, but trouble is feared if they eat herbs or drink alcohol.

Bonn Chol Vassa - Start of Buddhist Lent, Mid July, two days
Held to coincide with the eighth full moon of the lunar calendar, this festival marks the beginning of the three-month Buddhist lent, when Buddhist monks fast and meditate. Young men consider this festival auspicious for entering the monkhood.

Constitution Day, 24 September
This national holiday celebrates the formal adoption of the Constitution of Cambodia in 1993.

Mid Autumn Festival, September-October
Celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese communities throughout the country during the middle of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, the Mid Autumn Festival is a time for moon cakes and lanterns.

Bonn Dak Ben and Bonn Pchum Ben - Spirit Offering Festival,
September-October, 15 days
Running for 15 days, this festival is dedicated to blessing the spirits of the dead, and is one of the most culturally significant events in Cambodia. Each household visits its local wat and offers food to the monks for their assistance in blessing the souls of late ancestors, relatives and friends. Pagodas are crowded with people taking their turn to make offerings, with many staying behind to listen to Buddhist sermons.

Bonn Kathen - End of Buddhist Lent, October-November, one month
Starting immediately after the last day of lent and lasting until the next full moon, this religious festival marks the emergence of monks from retreat. People all over the country form reverent slow processions to their local temple to offer them robes and other items, thereby bringing spiritual merit to all participants.

Paris Peace Agreement, 23 October
This national holiday celebrates the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991.

Independence Day, 9 November
Each year 9 November is a national holiday, held to celebrate the independence of Cambodia from France in 1953. A gala parade is held in front of the Royal Palace, which includes floats, marching bands and other entertaining festive activities.

Bonn Om Touk - Water Festival, Mid November, three days
The Tonle Sap River is the only waterway in the world which flows in opposite directions at different times of the year. For most of the year the river flows out from the lake into the Mekong. However, during the rainy season from about June to October the Mekong rises, causing the Tonle Sap River to reverse its direction and the lake to swell to more than twice its regular size. At the end of the rainy season, when the water level of the Mekong drops again, the current reverts and flows back into the Mekong. This unique natural phenomenon is celebrated with three days of boat races, fairs, festivals, shows, parades, fireworks, music and dancing.

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