The Three Days of Khmer New Year 

Ancient tradition at heart of country’s culture

PHNOM PENH – Khmer New Year (Choul Chnam Thmey) is the greatest Cambodian festival. It is the traditional celebration of the solar new year which is usually celebrated for three days starting from April 13 or 14, the end of the harvest season. 

On March 7, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that Cambodia would celebrate the Khmer New Year 2022 as usual. The celebration lasts from Thursday, April 14 until Saturday. 

The determination of month, day, hour and minute when the new deity or angel descends to replace the position of the old year deity can be known by using the ancient astrological rule, Moha Songkranti. The new angel who is known as Kirini Tevy, the fifth daughter of Kabel Mahaprom descends at 10 AM on Thursday to rule the subcontinent. 

Day 1: Moha Songkranta 

According to the traditional records, the princess Kirini Tevy is adorned with emerald accessories and manda flower. She takes beans and sesame for food. Since she has an elephant as a vehicle, her right hand holds a whip (used to control elephants) and her left-hand carries a gun. 

On the first day of Khmer New Year, people must prepare a table full of fruits, drinks, flowers and other items following the rules as offerings to the new angel, God, because people believe that the new angel will come for nourishment and give them back blessings for a whole year. People also go to the pagoda to offer food to the monks. In the evening, people invite the monks to preach or give a sermon to Buddhists as drinks are served to the preachers. 

Day 2: Veareak Vanabat 

The second day of Khmer New Year is known as Vearak Vanabat which means the day of offerings to parents and relatives. Usually, on that day, Cambodian people like to give gifts and presents to employees and donate necessities like money, clothes, and food to poor people. In the afternoon, people go to the pagoda to mound sand into a sand dune (considered a stupa or tomb which represents the Chulamni Stupa) and pray while inviting the monks to send blessings to the spirits of deceased relatives. 

Day 3: Veareak Laeung Sak

The third day of the New Year is Veareak Laeung Sak. In the morning, people go to the pagoda to perform the ceremony of the mountain of sand to get blessed. Monks will cross the sand mountain or dunes by breaking the sand for other uses. In the evening, people perform another ceremony, which is Pithi Srang Preah. Within this Pithi, people give a special bath or shower to Buddha statues, the monks, the elders, and parents to apologize for any mistakes that have been made and to get forgiveness and blessing from them.  

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