Cambodia New Year: Traditions & Festivities for Travelers to Join

By Katie May

Although Cambodians usually celebrate the Cambodia New Year (Cambodian (Khmer) New Year) in April, this does not exclude you from painting the town crimson on the Western New Year. Cambodian New Year's Eve is filled with fireworks, dancing, and delicious cuisine. The capital city of Phnom Penh and the entrance to Angkor, Siem Reap, are the most significant sites in Cambodia to spend the New Year.

1. Cambodian New Year festival

What is Cambodian New Year?

The Cambodian New Year, also called Khmer New Year, is one of Cambodia's most important holidays. It is generally held on April 13th or 14th to commemorate the Lunar New Year and the conclusion of the harvesting season.

The festivals provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience Cambodian and Buddhist traditions. If you want to visit Cambodia for the Cambodian (Khmer) New Year, you can get all the information you need right here.

Illuminated Bayon temple near Siem Reap in Cambodia during Kmer New Year 

Illuminated Bayon temple near Siem Reap in Cambodia during Kmer New Year 

When is Cambodian New Year?

Cambodian New Year is always held in April. This is because farmers make up a big portion of the Khmer population, and April is one of the year's hottest months. Crop harvesting season lasts from November to March. There has been no rain by April, and the weather has become so pleasant that it is time to relax.

Cambodian (Khmer) New Year is celebrated over three days, with each day representing a distinct theme. The days begin on April 13th or 14th and continue from there.

Before the 13th century, the Cambodian (Khmer) New Year was celebrated in late November or early December. It was relocated to coincide with the harvest season, echoing many other harvest celebrations throughout the world.

2. Cambodian New Year traditions

The Cambodian (Khmer) New Year is observed over three days:

  • Day one - Maha Sangkran: The old year finishes and the new one begins on this day. People dress up for the occasion, pray together, and pay their respects to Buddha by kneeling three times in front of his picture. Every home has incense sticks and candles burning. Monks typically accept meals and bestow blessings on families and individuals.
  • Day two - Virak Vanabat: The second day is dedicated to charity, with individuals assisting those in need through money donations or other acts of charitable work. After the day, a solemn ceremony is dedicated to ancestors, and children, teachers, and the elderly are traditionally given presents.
  • Day three - Vearak Loeng Sak: This day is dedicated to bathing pictures of the Buddha with fragrant water in order to wash away all of the previous year's sins and bring joy and success into their life in the next year.

What to do in Siem Reap during the Cambodian New Year?

Here is a short list of things to do when you participate in the Cambodian New Year in Siem Reap - one of the biggest cities in Cambodia. Let’s take a look:

  1. Visit a pagoda
  2. Play traditional games and dance with the locals
  3. Participate to the Siem Reap Sangkranta Fesstival
  4. Visit nearby village
  5. Party in the streets of the Old Market area

Read moreSiem Reap in Cambodia: What to Do & How to Get There

Cambodia Pagoda at Happy New Year Season

Cambodia Pagoda at Happy New Year Season  

What are traditional Cambodian New Year foods?

Food is important in the Cambodian New Year, as it is in most New Year celebrations. Food is traditionally utilized to welcome in the new year, with families leaving fruit and drinks outside their homes as a gift to the angels.

Food is frequently presented as an offering to monks at local temples. This is a means to apologize for faults made in the previous year, as well as to show respect for these religious authorities. Families may have a feast or participate in communal feasts on the last day of the New Year. Curry, Nom Banh Chok, and fish amok are traditional Cambodian dishes.

3. Cambodian New Year celebration

How to celebrate Cambodian New Year?

The month of April marks the commencement of the preparations for the Cambodian New Year celebration. Cambodians clean and adorn their homes commemorating the first day, which is a greeting to the New Angels. Families give offerings to honor the New Angels, who look after the planet for a year.

People think that these angels come to their houses and stay with them throughout the year. This means they want to create a good first impression. Therefore families are known to go above and above to decorate their area for the event.

Where to celebrate Cambodia New Year?

Cambodian New Year celebrations in the 2 biggest cities of the nation - Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are the views travelers absolutely want to see and join those festival air if they come to Cambodia at that time.

Here are several spots in Cambodia where you may celebrate the New Year.

1. Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is recognized as Cambodia's Pearl. Where better to spend Cambodia's New Year's Eve than in the capital city! The city has several fantastic pubs, hotels, and a lovely riverbank for a great New Year's Eve party. As the Cambodian capital's hotels, clubs, pubs, and restaurants prepare for the midnight countdown, the mood will be electric.

Alternatively, you may simply wander down the river and dine and drink at any cafe that appeals to you while watching the fireworks at midnight.

The Mekong River is not something that can be undone (you can visit them both in one night, they have a connecting pass). There are numerous French cafés here, as well as crowds of visitors attending various events.

You may also stay at a riverbank hotel (book ahead of time) and enjoy New Year's Eve with a stunning view from your room.

2. Sihanoukville

Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville is a fantastic site to celebrate New Year's Eve. You may spend the day on any of their isolated beaches or islands, which have few visitors.

On the other side of town, a slew of casinos and bars await travelers looking to party and bet. Because the city has fewer tourists and visitors, you can be guaranteed to have a good time without having to cope with a huge throng. Nonetheless, it is not as safe as it formerly was. So, while you're having fun, be mindful of your stuff and locations.

While it may appear that New Year's Eve in Cambodia is not as big as it is in neighboring Thailand, the country has a lot of heart.

3. Siem Reap

Every night is a party on Temple Town's Pub Street, so expect it to be much livelier on New Year's Eve when tourists throng to the crowded stretch of pubs to consume bucket after bucket until well past midnight.

At night, the temple town's Pub Street sparkles. This boulevard is the epicenter of Siem Reap's nightlife. It offers a plethora of taverns serving moderately priced beer and tasty cuisine, and on New Year's Eve, the entire street is decked up in fun and tourism. Every pub offers thumping DJs and midnight countdowns. Café Latino, The Red Piano, and Cambodian BBQ are all popular locations to visit.

Hotels across town provide New Year's Eve packages. Hotels like Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor, FCC Angkor, Sofitel, Le Meridien, and others provide a comprehensive menu of cuisine and beverages for a memorable New Year's Eve. You may also visit the Courtyard by Marriott Siem Reap, which boasts a rooftop bar with a city view. It's the ideal location for an upscale New Year's Eve celebration.

Khmer New Year decoration in front of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia is the most visited place

Khmer New Year decoration in front of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia is the most visited place. 

4. Festival suggestions travelers should keep in mind

It might be challenging to visit Cambodia over the New Year. Here are a few helpful hints:

  • Plan ahead of time by booking your lodgings and transportation as soon as possible.
  • Keep in mind that many local shops, banks, and embassies will be closed.
  • Be wary of fraud and pickpocketing, especially in busy places.

Fast Facts about Cambodian (Khmer) New Year

Where did the Cambodian (Khmer) New Year come from?

The Cambodian (Khmer) New Year event evolved from Brahmanism, a kind of Hinduism the Khmer believed in before Buddhism. Later, Buddhism became affiliated with the festival and eventually assumed all of the key responsibilities in the celebration.

What is the Khmer name for the Cambodian New Year?

Choul Chnam Thmey means "Enter New Year" in Cambodian.

How do you wish a Happy New Year in Khmer?

You might want to wish individuals a happy Cambodian (Khmer) New Year. Simply say Susadei Chhnam Thmei!

While the Cambodian New Year has some somber aspects, it is primarily a celebration of life, family, food, and tradition. Every region of the country, as well as Khmer expats all over the world, puts their own twist on holiday, making each celebration distinctive in its own manner.

Khmer Traditional Dance in front of Angkor Wat during Khmer New Year

Khmer Traditional Dance in front of Angkor Wat during Khmer New Year 

Nowadays, traveling from other countries to Cambodia is quite easy to experience the traditional Cambodian New Year celebration. Thanks to Cambodia Immigration Service's e-Visa service, you will save a lot of time and effort by moving between agencies and filling out formalities. Contact us right away to receive your own e-Visa swiftly and easily!

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