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In my country, there are many important festivals such as Water Festival, Pcum Bean Festival...but the most important festival is New Year festival. The New Year holiday in Cambodia is usually from 13th to 15th April, but every 4 years it is from 14th to 16th. This is when the rice harvesting finishes and people have free time before they start planting again. Many people return to their home province for this holiday. Each of the 3 days has a different name. The first day is called Chol Chnam or Mohar Songkran. The second day is Varnna Buth. The third day is Leung Sak.
On the eve of years’ day, people clean and decorate their houses and cook traditional food. We make a traditional cake called Num On Som. Monks and laymen clean their pagodas and build 5 sand mountains outside the pagodas. The sand mountains (Phnom Khsach) are symbols of the burial chambers of Buddha. The start of Chol Chnam changes each year according to the calculation of the Royal Palace fortune teller. Just before the start of Chol Chnam each family prepare some of the food that they will take to the pagoda. Most people prepare chicken of beef curry. At the start of Chol Chnam, monks in the pagodas beat drums and the radio plays Pin Pet music. This is the music for special ceremonies at the palace.
On the morning of the first day, the women finish preparing the food to bring to the pagoda. Then they dress in their best clothes. Older ladies wear a black skirt and a white blouse. At the pagoda, they put rice in bowls and pray that their ancestors will receive it. Then they offer food to the monks. As well as this, people build a rice mountain in the temple by putting a handful of rice onto amount of rice. Outside the temple they get a basket of sand and put one handful of sand from their basket onto of each the 5 sand mountains (Phnom Khsach). Some people decorate them with incense, perfume and flags. As they do this; they wish for good luck and happiness for themselves and their families and to be free from any bad luck that might come from their own or their ancestors’ wrongdoing. The monks also pray and bless the people. Then a meal for the monks and nuns is prepared with the food that was brought to the pagoda. When they leave the pagoda, most people go home. If there is any food left over from the meal, someone will take it an orphanage.
In the afternoon, some people return to the pagoda. The monks prepare offerings to the gods and put them on the tables surrounding the sand mountains (Phnom Khsach) in the 8 principal directions. People sit close to the sand mountains but do not touch them. Anyone who touches them will have bad luck all year. With their prayers the sand mountains change into the burial grounds of Buddha. After this, there is music. Laymen sprinkle people with water from buckets. This is to bring them good luck. Then they play popular games. Popular games are: Choul Chung, Lek Kanseng, Sdech Chong, Teng Prot, Veay Khaaom...etc. By the way, traditional dances are: Rom Vong, Rom Kbach, Lam Leav, Saravann...etc.
People who don’t go to the pagoda, they go for a walk, visit friends and neighbors, and play games with friends. They play games in front of their houses. In the evening, people collect their friends and play more games and have dancing. This is the only time that young women are allowed to dance and play games with young men.
On the second day people do the same as first day.
On the morning of the third day people go to the pagoda again. First the monks pray inside the temple. After that, people sit around the sand mountains. Then the monks pray to change burial ground back into ordinary sand. In the afternoon, there is a ceremony to clean the Buddha. The people carry buckets filled with water into the temple. Some people add jasmine flowers or perfume to the water. After some prayers, the monks sprinkle water over the congregation. And then, the Buddha statue is cleaned. The monks and laymen clean the statue with a cloth. Then they splash water over the Buddha and dry it with a cloth. Other people repeat this splashing and drying of the Buddha. This is to bring the good luck into the New Year and to be free of any bad luck from the old year. Then there are games and after that people go home.
In people’s houses children wash their parents they offer them new clothes and give them money. This is to show respect for them. If the children are young, their parents give them money and new clothes. On the fourth day there is a ceremony to send the ancestors back home. This ceremony is called Chlong Bon Chol Chnam. It marks the end of the New Year.
Totally, the New Year festival inCambodia, my country, is truly the best time of the year.