In Cambodia, the new year happens to be celebrated three times a year.
The international New Year on January 1st is a public holiday in Cambodia when banks, schools, and offices are closed. The day is celebrated by tourists and locals alike with fireworks and music in the streets.
Chinese New Year, of which the date changes based on the lunar calendar, is not a public holiday in Cambodia. However, it’s still one of the most celebrated festivals of the year. It’s celebrated by Cambodians of Chinese descent, ethnic Vietnamese and locals.
Lastly, the Cambodia or Khmer New Year, or “Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei” in the Khmer language, is one of greatest traditional festivals and national holidays in Cambodia, and the celebration lasts for three days.
Khmer New Year generally starts on April 13th, 14th or 15th, which is the end of the harvesting season when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. Although Khmer New Year officially spans three days, it can extend into one or both adjoining weekends. Offices, restaurants, businesses and shops often give their staff a full week of holidays for them to spend with their families. Often, Cambodians travel from near and far back home to spend time with their families, during which they may have parties or take the time to visit their local temples.
For the Khmer New Year, houses are adorned with stars, fairy lights, plants, and various food and drink offerings. New clothes are worn by everyone, and streets are often packed with people spending time with their families and friends. You may see people dancing or playing games.
To know the latest celebration in Siem Reap, the best way is to check local Facebook pages and see what’s going on in town.
Safety during Khmer New Year
Khmer New Year is a friendly, lively festival in which we encourage visitors to take part. However, because of the big crowd and celebration in the streets, there are some safety rules we also encourage visitors to follow.
- Be aware of increased traffic. We advise festival goers to use tuk tuks instead of bicycles.
- During festivities, pickpockets and bag snatchers become rampant, especially in crowded areas. Do not take a bag out with you, do not carry large amounts of cash, and do not walk around with your camera or phone out.
- Water and talcum powder throwing has become a custom of sorts, particularly in the evenings. Do be careful when walking around at night, as the combination of water and talcum powder tends to make road surfaces slippery.
- Khmer New Year falls on the hottest time of the year, so be sure to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen when out and about.
Being vigilant and taking precautions will allow you make the best of the festivities and to enjoy them with a peace of mind!