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Khmer New Year Celebrations

Khmer New Year, watch out, notice the water filled plastic bag in the boys' handThe Khmer New Year is one of the most important holidays in Cambodia. Also celebrated in Thailand and other Buddhist countries, these days are filled with water throwing at passers-by and other games. Many people confuse this with the Water Festival, but then there is no water throwing.

For the best atmosphere in Phnom Penh, go to the area around Wat Phnom. There are free concerts at night.

Khmer New Year is celebrated for three days.
Dates in 2017: April 14-15-16

The Khmer New Year festival originated from Bramhmanism, a part of Hinduism, which was a religion that Khmer believed in before Buddhism. Later on Buddhism became associated with the festival and then took all the important roles in the festivity.

Showers and Games

games at Wat Phnom during Khmer New Year, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The third day is called Leung Sakk, the day the year really starts. In the evening, to complete the New Year festival, the Khmer need to perform the last ceremony, called “Pithi Srang Preah”, which means giving a special bath or a special shower to Buddha statues, the monks, elders, parents, and grandparents to apologize for any mistake we have done to them and to gratify them. Nowadays, during all of Khmer New Year the Khmer have much fun by spreading out water to each other.

Khmer New Year Games

Water throwing and talc powder rubbing at Wat Phnom

Throughout Khmer New Year, street corners often are crowded with friends and families enjoying a break from routine, filling their free time dancing and play. Typically Khmer games help maintain one’s mental and physical dexterity. The body’s blood pressure, muscle system and brain all are challenged and strengthened in the name of Why not try them for yourself?

Chol Chhoung

A game played especially on the first nightfall of the Khmer New Year by two groups of boys and girls. Ten or 20 people comprise each group, standing in two rows opposite each other. One group throws the “chhoung” to the other group. When it is caught, it will be rapidly thrown back to the first group. If someone is hit by the “chhoung,” the whole group must dance to get the “chhoung” back while the other group sings.

Chab Kon Kleng

A game played by imitating a hen as she protects her chicks from a crow. Adults typically play this game on the night of the first New Year’s day. Participants usually appoint a person with a strong build to play the hen leading many chicks. Another person is picked to be the crow. While both sides sing a song of bargaining, the crow tries to catch as many chicks as possible as they hide behind the hen.

Boy meets girl

Boy meets girld during games at Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A game played by two groups of boys and girls. Each group throws their own “angkunh” to hit the master “angkunhs,” which belong to the other group and are placed on the ground. The winners must knock the knee of the losers with the “angkunh.” “Angkunh” is the name of an inedible fruit seed, which looks like the knee bone.

Leak Kanseng

A game played by a group of children sitting in circle. Someone holding a “kanseng” (Cambodian towel) twisted into a round shape walks around the circle while singing a song. The person walking secretly tries to place the “kanseng” behind one of the children. If that chosen child realizes what is happening, he or she must pick up the “kanseng” and beat the person sitting next to him or her.

Tres

A game played by throwing and catching a ball with one hand while trying to catch an increasing number of sticks with the other hand. Usually, pens or chopsticks are used as the sticks to be caught.
Spraying water - Khmer New Year - Cambodia

Bay Khom

A game played by two children in rural or urban areas during their free time. Ten holes are dug in the shape of an oval into a board in the ground. The game is played with 42 small beads, stones or fruit seeds. Before starting the game, five beads are put into each of the two holes located at the tip of the board. Four beads are placed in each of the remaining eight holes.

The first player takes all the beads from any hole and drops them one by one in the other holes. He or she must repeat this process until they have dropped the last bead into a hole lying beside an empty one.

Then they must take all the beads in the hole that follows the empty one. At this point, the second player begins to play. The game ends when all the holes are empty. The player with the greatest number of beads wins the game.


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