Cambodian New Year Every country celebrates New Year in its own unique tradition. Khmer, “ Enter the New Year”, is the name of the holiday that Cambodians celebrate their New Year. It is celebrated each April and the dates are determined by the lunar calendar. It is consider as one of the most important holidays of the year in Cambodian culture. Traditionally, the celebration usually lasts three days and each day has its own meaning and tradition. The 2010 Cambodian New Year was celebrated in Long Beach, a city that has most Cambodian population outside of Cambodia.
The event included parade, stage performance, and food. The parade started with an interfaith blessing at Anaheim and Junipero Street and ended with a festival stage at MacArthur Park. I was very fortunate to be able to attend this spectacular event and personally experienced the celebration and also learned the Cambodian culture. While I was having a hard time finding a parking spot at the event, I ended up having a chance to take a quick look at the place. The streets were packed with people and cars.
There were many polices around because they were trying to control the crowd and also blocking the streets so the parade could go through. Many buildings and signs had Cambodian language written on it, which surprised me because I have never seen that much Cambodian language around before. After twenty minutes driving around the city, I finally parked at a restaurant’s parking lot. Before I got down the car, I knew that the event would be amazing just by looking at the amount of people who were standing on the streets. When I was walking down the streets, the parade and the crowd’s enthusiasm dragged me in to the holiday mood.
People seemed happy and excited and they were yelling at some words in Cambodian, which I did not understand, but I assumed that the words meant happy New Year. People who were standing on the streets were also waving the Cambodian flags to the parade. Some people were calling their friends or family members who were performing at the parade. One of the performances that caught my attention was a group of people who were playing the drums. The drummers were mostly young energetic adults and teenagers. While they were drumming, they would also shout which I found it interesting.
After following the parade for a while, I went to Macarthur Park where the festival was hold. I was early when I arrived to the park. People were still trying to set ups booths so there were not many activities to do. I decided to start interviewing people around because I wanted to learn more about the holiday. At first, it was difficult to do the interviewing because many people that I asked were either not able to speak English efficiently or was shy to be interviewed. Luckily, I found a group of young ladies who were very knowledgeable about the Cambodian culture and were willing to answer all my questions.
I began my interview with a girl who just recently graduated from UCI. The reason why I chose to interview her was because I was interested in her costume. She was wearing a gold crown and a beautiful long glittery gold dress. She was not the only female who was wearing the dress. There were few other young girls and adults were also dressing up like her. First, I thought they were all in a beauty pageant because they looked very elegant and stunning. I also saw many people were trying to take pictures of them so I assumed that they might be famous or in some kinds of competitions.
When I started interviewing her, I asked her about her outfit. She explained to me that king and queen would wear her dress in Cambodian tradition because gold and diamonds usually symbolized royalty. She added that “ a lots of girls would dress for pure and royalty. ” She also stated that some older women would choose to add few more layers to their dress because they do not like to show off too much skin. After she mentioned it, I was looking at the older females around me and I had to agree with her because most of them were dressing in a conservative way.
After I was done with the interview, the girl was kind enough to let me take a picture of her. After I finished the interview, a teenage girl came up to me and told me if I had more questions then I could ask her. I was surprised with her offer because when I was trying to find people to do the interview, a lot of people refused my request. At the time, I was still confused about how Cambodians celebrate New Year so I decided to ask her. She briefly told me that the celebration can be divided into 3 days, MohaSangkran, Wanabot, and Leung Sakk. Each day has a special meaning.
She also told me that some people would light candles and burn scented sticks as a way to celebrate. At the end, she added that this year the event was hosted a week early because the weekend was the only time that the park was available to be booked for the event. In the first day of the three days of New Year, Mohasangkran, people believes that it is the day that the new angles arrive on earth from heaven. Their jobs are to take care the world for the new coming year. They will protect the people from evilness. People will decorate and clean their houses as a way to welcome the new angles into the their homes.
Fruits, food, and drinks are prepared to set aside for the Angels because the Angles would come into the house to give blessings. The second day of the New Year is called Wanabot. It is a day that people will offer gifts to their parents, grandparents and elders. Finally, the third days is called Leung Sakk. People would go to the temple to perform a ceremony and to get blessed by the monks. Steam rich and sweet rice cakes with some other stuffing are wrapped and tied in a banana leaves is a common treat that is given to Buddhist monks to get blessed at the temple.
Every culture has its own way to celebrate the New Year. The Cambodian New Year is a very unique experience to me. The festival allows me to see a different side of people and also a different culture. Most people attended the event with their families, which made me a little sad because I miss spending time with my family. My parents both live in Taiwan so I do not have too much chance to see them. Even though I am not a Cambodian, but I truly felt the joy of welcoming the New Year. I feel very fortunate to participate one of the biggest new year celebration in California.