Cambodian New Year / Khmer New Year

Quick Facts - AU

AKA NameChoul Chnam Thmey
HashtagsCompiled on#KhmerNewYear
Related Hashtags#Cambodia, #Cambodian, #Thai, #TLCNewYear, #CambodianNewYear, #Khmer
2024 Date13 April 2024

Cambodian New Year

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Cambodian New Year / Khmer New Year (Start) History

Cambodian New Year, also known as Choul Chnam Thmey, marks the end of the harvest season. A joyful celebration held over three days, it represents a unique blend of Buddhist religion, age-old cultural rituals, and a deeply rooted respect for nature. The observance launches with Maha Songkran, a day dedicated to cleansing, followed by Virak Wanabat, a philanthropic second day. The third day, Leang Saka, marks the New Year and is a time of forgiveness and renewal.

Cambodia's New Year tradition spreads back centuries, aligning with the solar calendar. With an increasing number of Cambodians residing in Australia – more than 30,000 as of 2016 census – the New Year’s significance stretches far beyond Cambodia’s borders. The celebration offers a unique opportunity for Australians to broaden their knowledge of Cambodian culture, crystallising the strength of multicultural diversity in contemporary Australia. Moreover, festivities are often public, creating spaces for Australians to engage with traditional music, food, games, and distinctive Khmer rituals.

In Australia, the Cambodian New Year is celebrated in various ways. In cities with larger Cambodian communities such as Melbourne and Sydney, colourful parades, communal feasts and traditional Buddhist ceremonies are prominent. Cambodian temples or pagodas often become community centres during this time, engaging Australians of all backgrounds in an inclusive celebration. Hence, the occurrence of Cambodian New Year strengthens multi-cultural bonds and brings a slice of Cambodian culture Down Under. The Cambodian New Year is typically observed in April, lining up with the end of the harvest season in Cambodia.

Facts about Cambodian New Year / Khmer New Year (Start)

  • Each year, an angel is chosen to represent the Cambodian New Year depending on the day it lands on. In 2023, the holiday occurs on a Friday, so the angel Kemera Devi was chosen. The angel is said to be lead to Earth by a dragon while carrying her father’s head around a mountain, making sure that it doesn’t touch the Earth or sea.
  • The second day of celebrations is Virak Vanabat. It's a day of giving. People give gifts to their elders and to the young. They also often donate to the poor. There's a tradition to visit religious temples to build mounds of sand, which are believed to bring longevity and prosperity.
  • In 1981, the first Cambodian migrants arrived in Australia. Since then, the Cambodian community has grown exponentially and has actively maintained traditions such as celebrating the Cambodian New Year.
  • The New Year festival lasts for three days. The first day is known as "Maha Songkran", the second as "Virak Vanabat" and the third as "T'ngai Laeung". Each day has its own customs and traditions.

Top things to do in Australia for Cambodian New Year's Day

  • Visit family members you haven't seen in a while.
  • Visit a Cambodian Temple: You can also join the festivities at a Cambodian Buddhist temple. For example, Wat Khemarangsaram, a large Cambodian Buddhist temple located in Bonnyrigg, Sydney, conducts traditional Buddhist ceremonies and cultural events for Cambodian New Year.
  • Experience Cambodian Cuisine: Several Cambodian restaurants in Australia offer special menus or host food festivals during the New Year. Sydney locations include the Khmer's Kitchen or Holy Basil. In Melbourne, you can try the Little Khmer Kitchen.

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