The Cambodian New Year, celebrated from April 14 to 16, is also known as the Khmer New Year. This is because the holiday is celebrated with a bang by the Khmer people of Cambodia. And yes — like the typical New Year’s Day that the entire world marks on January 1 — this occasion, too, is flooded with celebrations, fireworks, parties, and a lot of fun! And it coincides with the traditional solar new year in several parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand.
History of Cambodian New Year
The Cambodian New Year, or the ‘Khmer’ New Year, is an occasion that has its roots in the history and culture of Cambodia. The locales believe that on this auspicious day, a new angel descends to take care of the world.
The legend: Dhammabal Koma, the son of a rich man, had successfully completed his study of the three Vedas. He was famous for his knowledge and his ability to communicate with birds. One day, the king of gods, who had learned of Koma’s intelligence, challenged his intellect by posing a riddle. The king, confident that Koma wouldn’t be able to solve the riddle, declared that the loser will be beheaded. For days, Koma struggled but was unable to solve the riddle, until one day he decided to commit suicide in the forest. While in the bush, he fell asleep and heard a conversation between two vultures. In that conversation, he learned the answer to the riddle. The king was beheaded, and, per his request, his daughters carried his head on a platter, in a ceremonial circle around Mount Sumeru. It is believed that on this day, a new angel comes down to earth for the ceremony, and brings with it happiness and good weather.
To honor the presence of the divine, Cambodians clean their homes and keep them alight with candles. They render their worship to Buddha by offering food to welcome the spirits. Each of the three days of celebration has a specific event assigned to it and the idea is for the Cambodians to make many unforgettable memories on their Khmer day.
Cambodian New Year timeline
The praying temples Angkor Wat and Bayon are constructed.
Cambodian New Year is first celebrated, in late November or early December.
The Khmer Republic, a pro-U.S. military-led republican government of Cambodia, is established.
The Khmer Rouge, a radical communist movement, takes over the country.
Cambodian New Year FAQs
Is Cambodia a third-world country?
Yes. it is counted among the poorest countries in the world.
What is Cambodia’s per capita?
The country’s per capita income in 2022 is $1842 which places it at 118 on the World Prosperity Index rankings.
How is the Cambodian New Year called in Cambodia?
The Khmer people call it ‘Chaul Chnam Thmey.’
Cambodian New Year Activities
Play the Khmer New Year’s games
Celebrate the day by playing some traditional and cultural games. Make sure everyone can play the games you picked so no one, regardless of their age, feels left out.
Attend the celebrations
On this day, several events are held across Cambodia to celebrate the occasion. These events are extremely entertaining for foreigners and nationals alike. Attend an event and celebrate all night!
Explore the nation’s capital
Explore Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia and the country’s most populous city. The region is recognized for its Central Market, Royal Palace, National Museum, and several other historic sites.
5 Facts About Cambodia
There are different dialects
There are 19 languages spoken in the country.
It is a Buddhist nation
About 95% of Cambodians identify themselves as Buddhists.
It once was a French Colony
Cambodia was once part of the French Colonial Empire.
It is a tourism hub
Tourism, which is its second-largest revenue generator, is a major industry in Cambodia.
Birthdays are not celebrated here
Traditionally, birthdays are not celebrated in the country.
Why We Love Cambodian New Year
It's a happening event
We love the Cambodian New Year because it’s celebrated with great fervor. You will find almost everyone in the country out doing something fun.
It is a traditional observance
The Cambodian New Year is unique because it’s celebrated according to the traditional calendar. It also includes several practices that reflect the unique culture of the region.
Participate in the ceremonies
For good luck, people wash their faces with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed. You can do the same.
Cambodian New Year dates