Khmer New Year History II

7 goddesses of the year

In the last article we have illustrated the Khmer New Year History (part 1) by introducing the cause of celebrating Khmer new year and the name of goddesses (Tep Thida) Mohasangkrant and accessories. Now we continue that article with part 2 (two) with the following.

New Year Tradition

Khmer New Year tradition is celebrated for the last 3 (Three) days. The first day is Moha Sankranti, the second day is Vonbat, the third day is Laoeng Sak. As for the determination of the month, day, hour, and minute when the old year goddess expires and the new year deity descends to take over from the old year deity, it can be known using the ancient astrological rule, the Great Sankranti rule.

Which month is the Khmer New Year? Which day? From the time of Nokor Thom, Cambodia used to calculate the number of days and months according to the lunar calendar, so the Khmer set Makase (January) as the new year and the first month of the year and month of Kadik (December) is the 12th (Twelfth) month of the year.

Later, Cambodia changed to using the method of counting days, months, years according to the solar calendar. That is when the Khmer set the New Year in the month of Chet (5th month), because in this month, the sun travels from Mina Reasey to Measa Reasey. New Year’s Day is usually on the 13th day of April (Chet) every year, but over time, there are some mistakes in the New Year on the 14th of April.

What is Maha Sankranti?

The Maha (Great) Sankranti, which uses the method of solar astrology, is called “Simple Sankranti” (the sun goes straight above the head as Sankranti). Maha Sankranti, which uses the lunar calendar method, is called “Ayant Sankranti” (when the sun moves obliquely from above).

The lunar calendar is still used in reference to the solar calendar because the lunar calendar is associated with many Buddhist precepts. On the other hand, the lunar New Year is irregular, sometimes during the lunar month, sometimes is not during the lunar month (do not have the moon). But in between one month is not before the 4th day of the month of Chet (between of March and April) and not later than the 4th day of the month of Pisak (between April and May). Thus, some Sankranti fall into the month of Pisak.

For various ceremonies, Khmer people have the following traditional arrangements: Before the New Year, they get ready to find food, clean the house, carry water in jars, find firewood, and cut new clothes. On New Year’s Day, offerings are prepared to receive the new deity: 1 (One) pair of Baysei (Section of banana tree trunk with legs to which 3, 5, 7, or 9 layers of banana leaves rolled up in finger shape have been attached) , 1 (One) pair of Slarthoi (Section of a banana leaf stem or green banana fitted with a stand and decorated, with betel leaves, areca nuts and flowers) , 5 (Five) incense sticks, 5 (Five) candles, 1(One) pair of perfumes, flowers, leeks, 1(One) bottle of water and drinks, cakes, fruits.

The houses are decorated with light bulbs, colorful strings or colorful lanterns to receive new angels. When the time came for the new deity to arrive, they brought their children to sit together near the shrine and light candles, burn incense, and pray for all the new deities.

For the relics and offerings to the deity, it is customary for the deity to descend each year. Example: If the angel who is to come down eats sesame seeds, they offer sesame seeds.

khmer new year

How many days of Celebrating the Khmer New Year?

The 3 (three) days of celebrating the New Year is with the detail as follows:

  • Day 1: Food is given to the monks at the pagoda. In the evening, sand is transported to build a Sand Stupa (Vealoka Chaydei), or stupa around the temple or around a Buddha tree in the pagoda. In the evening, drinks are served to the monks, and the monks perform sermons.
  • Day 2: Children give clothes, food, money to the parents, grandparents and so on. Sometimes they give alms to servants or the poor. In the afternoon, they went to the sand dunes again and prayed for the sand dunes, which were supposed to be like the Cholamni stupa, and summoned the monks of the stupa to send blessings to the spirits of their dead relatives.
  • Day 3: In the morning, inviting the monks for blessing at the sand mountain. In the evening, the monks and Buddha statues was shower the water and clean (according to the custom of some districts). On the occasion of the New Year, they play a lot of fun traditional games such as throwing a ball, throwing a box, pulling a rope, hiding a towel, catching a kite, etc., and there is a traditional dance (mostly in Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Cham province), especially dance in a circle, depending on individual preferences. Some people like to go for a walk, some people like to do rituals at pagoda

Waiting Next Article on Khmer New Year History

For continuing read the Khmer new year history, please click here Khmer New Year History Part 3. Due to the Khmer New Year History is the long article, thus we would like to separate the article into many parts.

The next article will illustrate on more detail of meaning of sand stupa, and the merit or consequence of practicing the tradition activities in the Khmer new year and good result of celebration the Khmer new year.

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2 thoughts on “Khmer New Year History II”

  1. This has been a fascinating read about Khmer New Year and the way in which the new year day has been calculated.  It is great to learn how people in Cambodia celebrate the New Year over 3 days and the traditional celebrations and events for each of the 3 days. 

    I have not yet read the first part of the history , so I will go back to read the first part of this interesting history. 

    1. Yes, It’s the oldest history in the world, Cambodia has the fantastic history and many places for visit. If you have free time, you can come and visit Cambodia.

      Thanks for your comments and idea.

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