Annual High School Sangkranta Brings Locals Together on New Year Celebrations

In 2024, the school’s Sangkranta was celebrated on April 7 and was attended by hundreds of students, local villagers and street sellers. Photo: Sangkranta of Sok Ann Tram Khnar High School Facebook

PHNOM PENH – For the past six years, Sok Ann Tram Khnar High School has held Sangkranta festivities, consisting of traditional games and dances, to celebrate the Khmer New Year while connecting all generations of students and the local people with their culture.

Located one hour away from Phnom Penh in Takeo province’s Sophy district, the school was not used to organizing such events before 2017.

But that year, Rith Dany, one of the first-generation organizers, decided she wanted to bring some change to her school. She said she was inspired by Bonnphum and Sangkranta celebrations that were held in some of the capital’s universities and brought them to her high school.

One of Dany and her organization team’s main goals was to offer an opportunity for the locals to celebrate the new year without having to travel far from their homes.

“We decided to use the vast vacant land close to the school and do something with it. We [knew] we could make it an annual event for the local people,” Dany, who has now become an architect, said.

At that time, the young student had mixed feelings regarding the organization, fearing it would turn into chaos if too many people were to come. Receiving approval from the school’s director was also one of the team’s concerns.

But the biggest challenge they faced was the budget.

“As I remember, we received some negative comments saying that the event might be a scam because we asked [money] from sponsors,” Dany said.


However, all of their worries faded away when dozens of students flocked to the school to celebrate Sangkranta with the team.

Seven years later, Dany still keeps a warm memory of that day, saying the event's success brought hope and happiness to the organizers.

“I was also thankful to all the members of the organizing committee, volunteers, and sponsors who have been involved in the event. I remember feeling very grateful and happy,” she said.

In 2024, the school’s Sangkranta was celebrated on April 7 and was attended by hundreds of students, local villagers and street sellers.

Pin Bunthorng, a physics teacher and the event’s general manager, said Sangkranta  also aims to remind the young people about the traditions of Khmer New Year and to preserve the culture. Many traditional games were included in the program to entertain the participants.


“We want to show them which traditional games they could play during the Khmer New Year celebrations. These are traditional games, unlike some extreme games that lack politeness and cause harm to others,” he said, referring to wild water fights that took place in the capital’s schools in early April and spilled over the nearby streets.

“Playing those games helps keep the traditions alive,” he added. These include Teagn Prot (tug-of-war), Bos Angkunh (throwing brown nuts the closest possible to a central point), Chaol Chhoung, Leak Kanseng (hiding a towel), and breaking clay pots containing baby powder and a small present.

"Some students don't know about the tradition because they have never been informed about it, so it is our job as teachers to teach them and cultivate their mindset to keep our traditions alive," Bunthorng said, adding that holding Sangkranta event along high schools is also encouraged by the government to spread preserve Cambodian culture across the country.

This year, it took three months to organize the event. Starting in February, the management team first gathered the volunteer students for the event and divided them into sub-groups.


“The students learn a lot during the preparation,” Bunthorng said. “They learn how to work as a team, to follow a schedule, or how to preserve their culture.”

"I'm happy to have seen this hard work pay off although the team was affected by the hot weather, the hectic schedule, and their busy personal life. But despite all, we still managed to prepare the event," he added. "It's not for any personal gain, but for our culture. It's from our heart.”

Sorn Vandy, a Grade 11 student, was part of the organizing team this year. She volunteered in a traditional dancing team, performing a dance called "Wishing to dance", which took place at the beginning of the event.

While she has been performing the same dance for the past three years, she had to start everything from scratch, as she had never danced before. She learned through other dancers who coached her, and by watching videos on YouTube.

"I could not help other volunteers in preparing the event, so dancing was the only thing I could do. Besides, dancing was a way to show Khmer tradition during this cultural day," she said, hoping that her performance would inspire the next generation.

Photo: Devith / Heang Black

Now that she gained experience, she wants to train the next generation of dancers to transmit what she’s received.

Thuo Seanghong, a fresh graduate of the high school, also took some time from her university’s schedule to help out with the event this year. She has been in the organizing team for the past two years.

Seanghong played a role as a facilitator and volunteered to design and decorate the site and clothes for the events. She took the role when the team received the school’s director’s approval in 2022, during the first post-pandemic edition.

“It’s like a social work for me. Helping the team prepare the Sangkranta event gave me new experiences and creative ideas,” she said, adding that she will still help the team in the next years.

Seanghong said it was hard at first because the team lacked knowledge and experience. But the senior and more experienced students helped them out.

“Although they did not get to teach us many things, they always supported our ideas,” she said.

Photo: Sangkranta of Sok Ann Tram Khnar High School Facebook

Sem Brakdav contributed to the story. 

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