The festivals in Cambodia and Theravada Buddhist ritual are irretrievably linked together. Even the Khmer Rouge and the rise of western culture could do little to suppress the practice of Cambodian festival celebrations. The citizens find this time a great way to bond and rejoice over the shared understanding of Cambodian culture, values and traditions. People from all the nooks and corners of Cambodia flock the capital to witness the display of organized fireworks which accompany the festivities. Cambodia festivals and holidays are decided based on the Khmer lunar calendar.
The Major Festivals In Cambodia
Given below are some of the major events and festivals of Cambodia which are greatly influenced by Buddhism, ancient royal traditions and cultures and Hinduism.
1. Cambodian Independence Day
This day’s celebration marks the independence of Cambodia from 90 years of French rule. It is celebrated at the Independence Monument and the event is presided by the ruling king of Cambodia, with Cambodians from different professions coming together every year to rejoice over their independence. Witness the celebrations of this one of the major festivals of Cambodia.
Date: 9th November 2019
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2. Choul Chhnam Thmey or Khmer New Year
This is one of the biggest festivals in Cambodia during which Cambodians with Khmer roots stop working for a whole 3 days and return to their homes to celebrate the end of the traditional harvest season. It is a time when the farmers, who have toiled the whole year in their farms for harvesting food, take some leisurely time off. The Khmer community celebrates this day by uniting with their family members and performing many purification ceremonies, visiting their temples and having fun playing traditional games.
Date: 14th April 2019 to 17th April 2019
3. Preah Reach Pithi Bonn Chrot Preah Neang Kol or Royal Ploughing Ceremony
This is a significant ceremony of ancient royals which marks the beginning of the rice-growing season when the preparations for the farming activities begin. This was formerly initiated by the Khmer king and since then it has been celebrated annually. The traditional event is held by the King of Cambodia. A representative of the King of Cambodia starts the ceremony by ploughing with the royal oxen which marks the start of a good harvest season.
Date: 22nd May 2019
4. King Norodom Sihamoni’s Birthday
This day is very important for the Cambodians as it reminds them about the outcome of Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot when a government with limited powers was absent. This day is celebrated on the event of birth and coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni, who is the current monarch of Cambodia. The celebration continues for three days every year.
Date: 13th May 2019 to 15th May 2019
5. Pchum Ben or Ancestor’s Day
Pchum Ben means “to gather together a ball of food” and this day, also known as the “Hungry Ghosts Festival” and “Festival Of The Dead” is the day when the Cambodians pay respect to all their 7 generations of ancestors. It is believed that on the first day of this festival, the gates of the hell are opened and all the ghosts are let out, some of them being ancestors to the people. The celebration involves a food offering ritual in the pagodas with the expectation that the merits earned by offering food to the monks will reduce the sins of the ancestors.
Date: 27th September 2019
6. Magha Puja Day or Meak Bochea
This is the most important festival of the monks in Cambodia and hence tops the list of Cambodia festivals. On this day, monks all over Cambodia celebrate that time in history when Lord Buddha delivered his sermon to the 1250 monks who had spontaneously gathered at Rajagaha Valuwan Vihara, which is the place where Lord Buddha had retreated. This marks the beginning of all the religious festivals in Cambodia. The Theravada Buddhists gather in a procession in Dhammakaya, which is a temple in Khlong Luang, and meditate & pray in the morning followed by circling the central altar twice with incense sticks, candles and flowers under the full moon night sky.
Date: 19th February 2019
Suggested Read: 10 Essential Things To Do In Phnom Penh On Your Cambodian Trip
7. Water Festival
Water festival in Cambodia is a magnificent and traditional event which take place at Phnom Penh. The Cambodia Water Festival history dates back to 12th century of Angkor period when the Naval Forces had battled for securing Cambodia. It is a mark of respect for these Naval Forces. It is celebrated night and day with all the Cambodian citizens, peasants and foreign travelers gathering in the capital. A boat racing event takes place during the celebration which formerly was a battle training conducted by the naval forces.
Date: 10th November 2018 to 12th November 2018
8. Vesak Bochea
This is a single day celebration of the three major events in the life of Buddha which are, Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and his passing into nirvana. On this day, Buddhists in Cambodia pray to Lord Buddha and donate food and clothes to the local monks in the area. This is majorly celebrated in the areas where there is a strong following of Buddhism. The date of the celebration is on every year’s 6th month’s full moon night in accordance with the Khmer lunar calendar.
Date: 22nd November 2018
9. Angkor Festival
The events of this festival are a delight to watch. Many dignitaries and sometimes the King himself attends this event. Performers from every part of Asia put together a performance showcasing their talents. The performances are based on the great epic stories derived from ancient myths. The performers look wonderful wearing their own national costumes recreating historic stories with musical and rhythmic backgrounds. This creative storytelling event takes place in one of the most exquisite locations, Angkor Wat.
Date: In November/December 2018
10. Sea Festival
Sea festival in Cambodia is celebrated every year in the month of December on any of the four Cambodian coastlines. This event which first took place in the year 2011, organizes many sports event for the visiting tourists including, motorboat racing, swimming, Cambodian martial arts, half marathon, and beach volleyball. The event celebration begins before the new year, starting at dawn and continuing till dusk. Sea Festival, which is the popular festival in Cambodia is a joint venture of the Ministry of Tourism, National Olympic Committee of Cambodia and the Ministry of Fine Arts & Culture. The 6th Sea Festival is scheduled to take place in the Kep Province in Cambodia.
Date: 22nd December to 24th December 2018
The various festivals in Cambodia are celebrated in a very unique way, which makes for a wonderful experience for all the travelers planning to take a trip to Cambodia during these specific dates.
Frequently Asked Questions About Festivals In Cambodia
Q: What is the most important festival in Cambodia?
A: All traditional festivals like Khmer New Year and the Sea Festival in Cambodia are the important festivals there.
Q: What is water festival in Cambodia?
A: Bon Om Touk is a water festival in Cambodia which marks the reversal of the flow of the river Tonle Sap .
Q: What is the language of Cambodia?
A: The official language of Cambodia is Khmer.
Q: How wealthy is Cambodia?
A: Cambodia is currently one of the poorest countries in the world.
Q: What do they eat in Cambodia?
A: Seafood is popular in Cambodia.
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