The local Cambodian people like to get involved in celebrating a wide range of festivals and special events that include visiting the provinces and sharing time with family and friends. For travellers in the country for theCambodia family tour, the festival times see a significant increase in travelling and shopping to make certain areas quite busy and congested.
Most of the traditional festivals fall on a similar date each year. Although, festivals like the Water Festival, Prachum Ben Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Visakhaboja and Khmer New Year make use of the lunar calendar which means there is a slight variation in the dates. Plus, there are events like that Chinese New Year that aren’t legal holidays in Cambodia, but still seem to attract similar celebrations and attentions as the legitimate holidays.
Here are a few of the Cambodia festivals and events that take place throughout the course of the year:
Bonn Pchum Ben
Bonn Pchum Ben (or Ancestors’ Day) is a key event on the list of Cambodia festivals and held late September – early October each year. For the fifteen days that are leading up to the festival, family members make regular offerings to their ancestors. This celebration is intended to care for and honour the spirits of ancestors, which are believed to come back to earth at this time.
On the actual day of the event, family and friends gather to celebrate the festivities taking place in the temples. On visiting the pagodas, the local people make offerings of money, incense and food to help ease the spirits’ burden. For the duration of the festival, the pagodas become very colourful and create the photogenic time on the Cambodia tours. Most businesses and virtually all government offices shut down for the duration of the special event.
Bonn Chaul Chhnam
One of the major festivals in Cambodia is Bonn Chaul Chhnam which is the Khmer New Year and celebrated in mid-April. This is a great time for locals to visit the temples with elaborate offerings, give their home a complete clean, and get together with families. Other popular holidays in Cambodia beyond the Khmer New Year are the Water Festival and Ph’chum Benh, which all encourage festive parties and visits to religious buildings. For the few weeks that start to lead up to the celebration, the young children and teenagers are seen to play a variety of games on the street. Once New Years Eve arrives, it is time to offer incense, food and drink, which is placed on the palm-framed tables outside the home. The start of the New Year begins in line with the lunar calendar, and not traditionally at midnight.
Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal
The Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal takes place in May and is intended to mark the planting season. This ceremony takes place in Phnom Penh at the Lean Preah Sre Park and includes plenty of pomp, Buddhism and animism. The event starts with monks chanting and asking for permission to plough from the earth spirits. After this, there are a variety of ceremonial furrows created with rice scattered with an offering presented to the divinities.
A significant part of the entire Royal Ploughing Ceremony relates to the Royal Bulls choosing from offered wine, water, grass, grain, or rice. The different offerings each have a meaning. For instance, grain or rice bolds well; wine can be an indication of drought; grass is an indication the crops may be attacked by insects; and water signifies that rain is coming.
Bonn Om Touk
The Bonn Om Touk (also referred to as the Water Festival) has been an important festival on the Cambodian calendar and celebrated in mid November each year. This celebration relates to the current reversing in the Tonle Sap River while also announcing the start of the fishing season. This event takes place in Phnom Penh along the riverbank and has plenty of activities taking place, including watching the fireworks, a boat parade with everything is illuminated, and watching the boat races take place. The racing of the traditional longboats takes place in front of the Royal Palace on the Tonle Sap River. There are plenty of rowboats in bright colours that are competing for honours and prizes. A great place to view the festival on the Cambodia holidays is from the restaurants and hotel balconies that are well placed and overlook the river.
Buddhist offering days
A very colourful occasion includes the Buddhist offering days that take place at different times of the year to match the lunar calendar. This type of festival includes taking flowers to the local temples or using them to decorate a shrine at home. Popular flower choices for the Buddhist offering include the lotus buds which are carefully folded to make it possible to display the inner petals in pale-pink. Other choices include threading jasmine buds on sticks to help create fragrant tokens.
Meak Bochea Day
The Meak Bochea Day takes place in late February and falls in the third lunar month on the day of the full moon, and intended to commemorate a meeting between monks and Buddha. This related to Buddha giving an oration that lays out the beliefs of his teachings. While Meak Bochea Day is seen as a popular Buddhist festival, it does not seem to attract as much following as other events that are taking place later in the year, such as the Visaka Boche festival.
Victory Day over Genocide Day
Victory Day over Genocide Day (also referred to as Liberation Day) takes place in early January and is to show a mark of respect and commemorate the fall of the Khmer Rouge, which took place on the 7th January 1979. This holiday honours the lives of those lost retaking the country and the genocide. This event is held at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh and is a very colourful ceremony to watch if locally based while on the Cambodia travel package.