Cambodia Holidays: Khmer New Year

What Is Khmer New Year

Chaul Chnam Thmey translates to Khmer New Year, which literally means “Enter the New Year”. Khmer New Year celebrations last for three full days. The dates for Khmer New Year are the 14th, 15th, and 16th of April.

It is one of the most important holidays in Cambodia and most people have the three days off from work. Many actually take a full week off of work to spend more time with their families. You will witness all kinds of crazy fun if you’re in the city but actually, plenty of people return to their hometowns to celebrate with their families.

Go ahead and try some of these popular games if you’re here.

In our article about Chinese New Year, we explained why Khmer New Year happens in April. Khmer New Year celebrates the end of harvest season. This lets farmers relax after their labor and enjoy life. Keep in mind that agriculture has always been a large part of Cambodian society. Today, agriculture represents 28% of Cambodia’s GDP and 45% of employment.


The Three days of Khmer New Year

Day One: Moha Songkran

Khmer New Year is an important time in Cambodia traditions. This is the only time that young Khmers are allowed to meet and engage with the opposite sex in order to find potential spouses. On the first day, people usually cook food and bring it to the monks in the pagodas. The pagodas end up becoming a place of reunion for villagers.
The pagodas are also a good place for Cambodians to meet other people who are also born in their region or who went to school together, but now live and work in other places. The pagoda thus becomes a place of reunion, meeting old friends and exchanging news about their lives.

Day 2: Wanabat – Day of Giving

Wanabat is the day of giving. People traditionally give gifts to parents and grandparents, kids get some new clothes, and the impoverished get money and/or clothes. In the evening, monks give blessings inside pagodas.

Day 3: Tanai Lieang Saka – New Beginning

The day of new beginnings starts with monk blessings in the morning. After, the streets turn into a joyous water fight with baby powder included!

Things To Do During Khmer New Year

  • Play Khmer games
  • Dance to Khmer music
  • Join the water fight
  • In Siem Reap? Spend the night in Pub Street

Have you celebrated Khmer New Year? How was your experience? Let us know in the comment section below.