In many countries in South Asia such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and parts of India and Sri Lanka New Year is celebrated around the same time. In Cambodia “Sus’Dei Chnam Thmei” as it is known the holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year’s Day, which usually falls on April 13 or 14th, which is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. The streets are full of revellers wishing each other good luck, success, happiness and peace.
The first day of the Khmer (Cambodian) New Year is called Moha Songkran. On this day people dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines. They also clean and decorate their houses and themselves, to make sure that the New Year does not start with bad luck or unhappiness. Homes welcome the new god or angel individually by offering a table full of fruits, a cake with candles, incense sticks decorated with flowers and flashing light chains to ensure that the house and the family are protected for the rest of the year. For good luck people wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed.
The second day of the New Year is called Wanabat which means “The Day of Giving”. It traditionally consists giving gifts to family members and the elderly. People contribute charity to those the less fortunate by offering food, money and even clothes. Children are also given new clothes to wear.
The third day is called Tanai Lieang Saka which means “new beginning”. The day usually starts with a visit to the temple to receive blessings from the monk and devotees wash the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Cleaning Buddha images is a symbolic practice to wash bad actions away like water clean dirt from household items. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By washing their grandparents and parents, the children can obtain from them best wishes and good pieces of advice to live the life for the rest of the year. Then later in the day the celebrations begin with the traditional water dousing in the street and public places. In the streets and in public places, people pour water on each other. Young Cambodians and children also throw baby powder and flour at each other. This tradition is called Sraung Preah.
The Khmer New Year is also a time to prepare special dishes, the streets are crowded with local communities enjoying a break from routine, filling their free time with dancing and games such as ‘Chol Chhoung’ which is a rope pulling contest. It is also traditional that young Cambodians are encouraged to mix with the opposite sex to look for potential partners over this New Year period.