Tomorrow is the biggest Khmer holiday. It is a festive time which involves time spent with families. Most people leave Phnom Penh to visit family in the “homeland” as they call their home province. It is estimated that about a million people leave Phnom Penh ( Phnom Penh is about 1.5 million according to some statisitics could be more!) so it is very quiet almost like a ghost town/city. Most businesses shut down and all the markets are closed which will be interesting. I went down to the market today to see what was going on. there were lots more stalls set up along the road and the food section was busy. There were lots of these banana decorations. I think they are for taking to the temple and spirit shelves in your house. Lots of people were carrying bunches of flowers which I think are also used for the same purpose.
Here is an explaination I found to help you understand a bit of what Khmer New Year is about:
“Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival and national holiday. Khmer New Year begins on April 13th or 14th, depending on the ancient horoscope, “MohaSangkran”. The majority of the Khmer populations are farmers. Farmers reap and harvest their crops from the rice fields all year long, except during April. In April, there is no rain and it is very hot. Therefore, the farmers rest from working in the rice fields and celebrate the New Year.
The first day of New Year is called “Moha Sangkran,” meaning “welcoming their new angels.” This year is the year of the Rooster (Mon), and Moha Sangkran of the New Year will begin on April 13th. The leader of Angels is named KimiteaTevi. Khmer people clean and decorate their homes and prepare fruits and drinks to welcome their New Angels. Elderly people like to meditate or pray the Dharma because they believe that any angel who comes to their homes will stay with them and take care of their family for that whole year. In the morning, Khmer people go to the temple to offer food to the monks and to receive blessing.
The second day of New Year is called “Wanabot,” meaning “to offer gifts to the parents, grandparents and elders.” In the evening, people go to the temple to build a mountain of sand to remember those ancestors who have passed and have the monks give them a blessing of happiness and peace. The third day is called “Leung Sakk;” that means “the year starts to be counted up from this day.” In the morning, Khmer people go to the temple to perform the ceremony of the mountain of sand to get blessed. The last ceremony is called “Pithi Srang Preah”, meaning to give a special cleansing to Buddha statues, the monks, elders, parents or grandparents to apologize for any mistake they have done and to gratify them. Khmer New Year is not just a great traditional festival. It is also a generation passing on traditions.” ( http://ihdcsf.org/2009/05/cambodian-new-year-festival-2010/)
It is a Buddhist festival and involves going to the temple. This is really hard for the Khmer Christians as they want to spend it with their extended family but often come under pressure to join in all the ceremonies.Pray that they will know what is the right thing to do.