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    Khmer New Year
    Saturday April 16th 2016
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    Cambodian Buddhist Temple
    Silver Spring, MD 

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Cambodian New Year (cont'd)

Table of Contents

Khmer New Year is one of the official holidays in Cambodia. The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year's Day, which usually falls on April 13 or 14th. Harvesting season has ended by this time. The whether is hot, may be the hottest of the year. It rarely rains in April, but the rainy season will begin soon. This is a time when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. For ordinary Khmers living abroad, they choose to celebrate during a weekend closer to April 13. But Buddhist pilgrims and monks stick to the actual Khmer New Year calendar.

Khmer New Year at Cambodian Buddhist Temple, Silver Spring, Maryland 2014

Khmer New Year at Cambodian Buddhist Temple, Silver Spring, Maryland 2014: the arrival of new Angel

Khmer New Year at Cambodian Buddhist Temple, Silver Spring, Maryland 2013: the receiving of new Angel ceremony


This year, Reaksak Tevy will be arriving on April 14 at 2:02 pm. So each house must be ready with the offering table and be gathered burning the incense sticks to welcome and make praying to New Year’s angel for a happiness and successful for this coming year.

Before the New Year Days, each Cambodian house is decorated with flower and ornaments. They make an altar for offerings and worshiping new Angel of the year. Typical decoration includes, but may vary by region and practice:

  • • A statute or picture of Buddha
  • • 5 incense sticks, 5 candles
  • • A pair of decorated young banana tree
  • • 3 kinds of fruits, each kind prepared into 2 trays
  • • Small jasmine flower braids to put on every offering
  • • And the special offering for Reakyaksak Tevy.

In addition, they make a hand-made lantern in the shape of a star lighted with candle. Each night, they gather before the altar and do the praying service by reciting dharma. During the day, old folks prepare foods and bring them to Buddhist temple while young folks play folk games. The biggest celebration for Khmer New Year is April 16, the last day when most people go to the Buddhist temple. Other religion followers celebrate the New Year a little bit different. The whole point is that everybody really has a good time. People who live in the city goes back to their native village and feast with their relatives and friends.

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History of Cambodian/Khmer New Year

Once upon a time there is a young man named Dhammabal Koma (formerly an incarnation of the Buddha) who is a son of a rich man. Dhammabal Koma has finished his study of the three Vedas and also can speak the language of all birds. His talent and knowledge made him to be famous through out the area. One day, Kabil Moha Prum, who is the king of heaven heard about the cleverness of Dhammabal Koma and wanted to challenge him a test of intellectual ability by asking him to solve three riddles within seven days time period. The reward of his winning is Kabil Moha Prum, the king of heaven will cut his own head off and if Dhammabal Koma could not solve the riddles, he must also cut off his head too.
Six days have gone. Dhammabal Koma still has no sign of the answering of the riddles. He was hopeless and thought that he would have to suffer his life for the King of Heaven tomorrow. So he decided to walk into deep forest and kill himself for his ashamedness. After a long distance of struggling in the forest, Dhammabal Koma had arrived underneath of big palm tree. He was too tired. While he was about to fall in sleep, he accidentally heard and listened to the conversation of the eagles couple. The female eagle was enquired her male eagle about their food for tomorrow, and the male eagle replied that we will have Dhammabal Koma’s flesh for many days, because he will not be able to solve the Kabil Moha Prum’s riddles. Curiously, the female eagle asked her male eagle of what the riddles were about. Her male eagle replied:

1. Where is the charm in the morning?
2. Where is the charm in the afternoon?
3. Where is the charm in the evening?

The male eagle then continues to tell his female eagle the answers:

1. In the morning, charm lies on people’s face as they wash their face before starting a new day.
2. In the afternoon, charm is on people’s chests as they bathe to cool their body from the afternoon heat.
3. In the evening, charm is at people’s feet as they clean their feet after a full day of work and get ready for bed.

After listened to the conversation of the eagles couple, Dhammabal Koma quickly recovered from tiredness and rush back to his palace waiting for Kabil Moha Prum, the King of Heaven to answer his riddles. Upon hearing the answers, Kabil Moha Prum is being a worthy and honorable God, wasted no time in arranging the decapitation of his own head.

As promised, Kabil Moha Prum cut off his own head due to his defeated. But before doing so, the King of Heaven calls his seven daughters to come and advised that his head cannot be dropped down on earth or ocean. If the decapitated head were to touch the ground, then the whole earth would start to burn uncontrollably. If the head was thrown into the air, then it would stop raining forever. If it sunk in the ocean it would make the water evaporated.

His head must be putting on a golden platter. All daughters who are angels must take turn to carry his head for ceremonial circle around mount Someru,(the mythical five peaked summit that contains the city of Brahma, home of the God) every year during the Sangkran date. They paraded for seven rounds on this mountain before bringing the head to keep in Kuntheakmali temple in heaven.

If the New Year, which is April 13th (Cambodia time), falls on:

Sunday angel is Tungsa Tevy as the oldest daughter of Kabil Moha Prum, wears a ruby neckage, a pomegranate flower hairpin. She carries a disc on the right hand and on her left hand holding a shell. Fig fruit is her favorite food. Her vehicle is garuda.

Monday angel is Koreakak Tevy wears Angkeabos flower hairpin. She carries a sword with her right hand and a cane at the left. She rides a tiger and oil is her favorite food.

Tuesday angel is Reaksak Tevy wears lotus flower hairpin. She drinks blood. In her hands are a trident at right, and a bow at left. Her animal is a horse.

Wednesday angel is Mondar Tevy wears a Champa flower hairpin. Her weapons are a needle on right hand, and a cane on left. She drinks milk and rides a donkey.

Thursday angel is Keriny Tevy wears a hairpin of Mondar flower. Beans and sesame are her favorite foods. On her right hand carries a harpoon and on left hand a gun. Her vehicle is elephant.

Friday angel is Kemira Tevy wears a hairpin of violet flower. She prefer banana as offering. She carries a sword on right hand and a zither on left hand. She rides water buffalo as vehicle.

Saturday angel is Mohurea Tevy wears a hairpin of Trokeat flower. She favors on deer meat. Her weapons are a disc and a trident. She rides a peacock.

Cambodian/Khmer New Year Celebrations
Cambodian New Year (Khmer: Chaul Chnam Thmey) in the Khmer language, literally means "Enter New Year", is the name of the Cambodian holiday that celebrates the New Year. 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. Khmers living abroad may choose to celebrate during a weekend rather than just specifically April 13 through 15th. The Khmer New Year coincides with the traditional solar New Year in several parts of India, Myanmar and Thailand.

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Moha Sangkran

Traditionally, the Cambodians people celebrate New Year for three days. Moha Sangkran is an order of which the New Year is observed according Buddhist belief. It varies slightly from year to year because of different year, different guardian angel, one of the Kabel Mohaprom's daughter, taking turn carrying his head according to the Cambodian New Year legend. Click here to read Moha Sangkran 2013.

Day 1 - Maha Sangkran

Maha Songkran, derived from Sanskrit Maha Sankranti, is the name of the first day of the New Year celebration. It is the ending of the year and the beginning of a new one. People dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines, where the members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha's teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before his image. 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. It is also the entry into the New Year. At the Buddhist temple and at home, Cambodian people gather for a special reception for the arrival of Tevada signaled by the sound of the drum or bell. Throughout the day, people participate in ceremonies of games. One of the activities is building small sand mountains symbolizing the file-peak summit of Mount Meru. Mount Meru is the mythical Hindu mountain that is considered to be the center of the universe and home of the Gods, and is also symbolized by the architecture of Angkor Wat. Each piece of sand that is added to the mountains is believed to produce more health and happiness in people’s lives. During Maha Sahgrant, people also bring food for the monks and pray with them.

Day 2 - Virak Wanabat

Virak Wanabat is the name of the second day of the new year celebration. People contribute charity to the less fortunate by helping the poor, servants, homeless, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery. It is also time for more praying. This day is the day to show consideration to the elders. Children give gifts to the parents, grandparents and teachers out of respect. It is also time to serve. Cambodians offer charity to less fortunate, participate in service activities, and forgive others for misdeeds that may have been done to them. The people continue to add to their sand mountains.

Day 3 - Virak Leung Sak (Leung Sak Day)

Leung Sak day is the name of the third day of the New Year celebration. Buddhists cleanse the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is the symbol that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future. On this final day, the monks bless the sand mountains. This is also the day for the cleansing of Buddha statues. The people wash their Buddha statues Sraung Preah with perfume water. At home, children give bath to their parents. This is thought to be the kind deed that will bring good luck, long life, happiness and progress. The bathing also symbolizes hope for sufficient rainfall for the rice harvest. At this final day, the Cambodian people and government offer a special memory service for memory of fallen compatriots for the defense of the country.

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Traditional Games Played During New Year

Cambodia is home to a variety of games played to transform the dull days into memorable occasions. These games are similar to those played at Manipur, a north-eastern state in India. Throughout the Khmer New Year, street corners often are crowded with friends and families enjoying a break from routine, filling their free time with dancing and games. Typically, Khmer games help maintain one's mental and physical dexterity.

Chol Chhoung

A game played especially on the first nightfall of the Khmer New Year by two groups of boys and girls. Ten or 20 people comprise each group, standing in two rows opposite each other. One group throws the "chhoung" to the other group. When it is caught, it will be rapidly thrown back to the first group. If someone is hit by the "chhoung," the whole group must dance to get the "chhoung" back while the other group sings.

Chab Kon Kleng

A game played by imitating a hen as she protects her chicks from a crow. Adults typically play this game on the night of the first New Year's Day. Participants usually appoint a strong player to play the hen who protects "her" chicks, while another person is picked to be the "crow". While both sides sing a song of bargaining, the crow tries to catch as many chicks as possible as they hide behind the hen.

Bos Angkunh

A game played by two groups of boys and girls. They put the hand in the hole.

Leak Kanseng

A game played by a group of children sitting in a circle. Someone holding a "kanseng" (Cambodian towel) that is twisted into a round shape walks around the circle while singing a song. The person walking secretly tries to place the "kanseng" behind one of the children. If that chosen child realizes what is happening, he or she must pick up the "kanseng" and beat the person sitting next to him or her.

Bay Khom

A game played by two children in rural or urban areas during their leisure time. Ten holes are dug in the shape of an oval into a board in the ground. The game is played with 42 small beads, stones or fruit seeds. Before starting the game, five beads are put into each of the two holes located at the tip of the board. Four beads are placed in each of the remaining eight holes. The first player takes all the beads from any hole and drops them one by one in the other holes. He or she must repeat this process until they have dropped the last bead into a hole that lies besides any empty one. Then they must take all the beads in the hole that follows the empty one. At this point, the second player may have his turn. The game ends when all the holes are empty. The player with the greatest number of beads wins the game. It is possibly similar to congkak.

Klah Klok

A game played by Cambodians of all ages. It is a gambling game that is fun for all ages involving a mat and some dice. You put money on the object that you believe the person rolling the dice (which is usually shaken in a type of bowl) and you wait. If the objects face up on the dice are the same as the objects you put money on, you double it. If there are two of yours, you triple, and so on.

According to tradition, each of the 12 years was named by Buddha as he prepared to depart the land. After summoning all of the earth's animals to appear before him, he named each lunar year after an animal in the order they arrived. The Cambodians believe the animal ruling during one's birth year is deeply telling of an individual's character.

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Find your birth year in the chart below and discover what the ruling animal says about your personality.

Year of Rat : Chout

   1936       1948       1960       1972       1984       1996       2008   

Unlike the Eastern culture, the rat is revered as a symbol of luck and wealth in the East. The creature is known for its ability to seek out and quickly gather items of value. Sharp-witted and curious, the rat is popular and makes friends easily, although those who are most loyal will be shown an extra amount of generosity and protection. The sign is said to be motivated by self-interest; often times money and sometimes greed can take center stage.

Year of Ox : Chlov

   1937       1949       1961       1973       1985       1997       2009   

Solid and steadfast, the ox achieves success by setting goals and working methodically to achieve them. Often introverted in a crowd, many perceive the ox to be far too serious. Because of this, the sign tends to value close relationship with family and close friends. As companions, oxen are strong and reliable.

Year of Tiger: Khal

   1938       1950      1962       1974      1986       1998       2010   

Tigers are charismatic natural born leaders who are intent on following through on interests and often like to remain in control of situations. Unafraid of doing battle, tigers have raw power and passion that acts as a magnet to draw other signs in. Because of this intense passion, tigers are quick to pounce on others and act rashly; they are susceptible to emotional outbreaks and mood swings.

 Year of Rabbit: Thos

   1939       1951      1963       1975      1987       1999       2011   

Rabbits are timid gentle signs who attract a large following of family and friends. Those in this sign usually dislike conflict and confrontation and will doing anything to avoid it; they are often viewed as pushovers. As companions, rabbits tend to give more than they receive and are highly sensitive. They are extremely loving and nuturing to all those around them.

Year of Dragon: Rong

   1940       1952      1964       1976      1988       2000       2012   

Energetic and powerful, the dragon is viewed as the luckiest sign in the Chinese Zodiac. Intelligent and charismatic, dragons are viewed as the team leaders who inspire the masses to stay focused and intent on success. Retaining power and control in a dominant leadership position is the sole aspiration of the sign; defeat is not accepted gracefully.

Year of Snake: Masanh

   1941       1953      1965       1977      1989       2001       2013   

Hard-working and diplomatic, snakes are intuitive and often analyze a situation carefully before making a move. Charmingly seductive, snakes have little trouble attracting what they want, but may have deep-seeded insecurities and ill-placed jealousy in relationships. Snakes will rely on their own instincts and gut reactions, making them an attractive partner in business and money managing enterprises.

Year of Horse: Momi

   1942       1954      1966       1978      1990       2002       2014   

Horses are energetic lovers of travel and adventure who can't bear even the shortest times of inactivity. Horses are deeply romantic and sensual, often coming on strong in the beginning of a relationship due to the sign's desire to experience love and intimacy. Often impatient, the horse may roam from one activity or group to the next, possibly out of a misguided inferiority complex.

Year of Sheep/Goat: Momer

   1943       1955      1967       1979      1991       2003       2015   

Sheep are wildly creative lovers of imagination. Disorganized and high strung, sheep thrive in occupations which allow them to exercise independence. Sheep are prone to phases of insecurity and incessant worry, often needing to feel loved and appreciated in a relationship to ward off insecurity.

Year of Monkey: Vork

   1944       1956      1968       1980      1992       2004       2016   

Monkeys are drawn toward fun and naturally know how to be the life of the party and have a good time. Good listening skills and constantly evolving interests draw others in. Prone to mischief, the sign often finds trouble while pursuing interests; and the monkey's quick wit may not be able to charm the displeasure away. Sometimes lacking self-control, the monkey may indulge in over-the-top pleasures and may jump from relationship to relationship.

Year of Rooster: rokar

   1945       1957      1969       1981      1993       2005       2017   

Roosters are quick-thinking and resourceful creatures who would rather stick to the tried-and-true than experiment with unproven risks. Roosters pay careful attention to detail and are known for their open and honest nature. Drawn to high-style, roosters are social and engaging. The sign's need to maintain perfection and control can create conflict with other more relaxed individuals.

Year of Dog: Chaor


   1946       1958      1970       1982      1994       2006       2018   

Dogs are loyal and kind creatures who posses a deep-seeded sense of right and wrong. Sometimes appearing stubborn and self-centered, dogs have difficulty maintaining their temperaments in times of turmoil. Discreet and attentive listeners, dogs are coveted friends. Although the sign is typically trustworthy, dogs have a hard time finding that same trust in others.

Boar: Kaor

   1947       1959      1971       1983      1995       2007       2019   

Contrary to Western belief, pigs in the East are perceived as generous and honorable creatures who take perfection seriously. Pigs are quite intelligent and alarmingly giving, leaving them susceptible to being taken advantage of. Pigs strive to help others are love to feel appreciated. Often so involved in lavish indulges; pigs may miss exciting opportunities in life because they are so intent on focusing on only what is known and enjoyed.


Click here for Khmer New Year Program Book for Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Silver Spring Marland.

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Researched by Ben Bao/Boran Tum


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