Events & Festivals
Cambodia has a wealth of traditional and international festivals. Most of these are a time of great rejoicing for the predominantly rural populace, many of whom flock to the capital to join in the celebrations and witness the organized fireworks displays which accompany the festivals. It is at these times the nation unites with a shared common understanding of values and traditions and they are looked forward to with great expectation. Even in times of hardship people try even harder to make these times special. All the traditional festivals are influenced by the concepts of Buddhism, Hinduism and royal cultures. The following are the most important of the celebrations organized throughout the year.
January 1 st :International New Year’s Day
January or Febuary : Tet Festival
This is the New Year of both the Chinese and Vietnamese lunar calendar.
April 14-16 : Cambodian New Year is celebrated for 3 days after the end of the harvest to mark the turn of the year according to the Khmer lunar calendar. Every home is decorated, shrines are filled with food and beverages given as offerings to God. People attend Buddhist temples where traditional games are also performed.
May 25 th : Royal Ploughing Ceremony This is celebrated to alert the nation of the commencement of the rainy season and to ready farmers for the ploughing period. A field at the Royal palace, Phnom Penh is a good spot to watch or join in on the festivities. Ploughing activities are held and cows are given a variety of crops to eat. Based on the choices of crops eaten by the cows, predictions are made for the coming year’s harvest.
Palace guards at Royal Ploughing Ceremony, which foretells year’s best crops
June 18 th : Sihanouk’s birthday This celebration revering the country’s influential king take place in late October or early November. People from all over the country come to the capital to join in celebrations and festivities held throughout the capital. Often the King’s birthday and Water festivals coincide resulting in a mammoths celebration in front of the Royal Palace and along the riverfront. Provincial villagers who would ordinarily have no reason to visit Phnom Penh will save up and make this occasion their sole visit to the capital.
September 23 rd to the 25 th : Spirit Commemoration Day
October : Pchun Ben Day
This is the most culturally and religiously significant event of the year and is celebrated in September. This festival of souls concentrates on blessing the souls of ancestors, relatives, and friends who have passed away. All Buddhist temples, especially Wat Phnom, are the focal points for this festival and most Cambodians visit the temples to take traditional offerings and pray.
Pchum Ben – Spirits of the Dead Festival
October 30 th to November 1 st : Birthday of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk A giant firework display is held close to the riverbanks in front of the Royal Palace inPhnom Penh.
October or November : Water Festival Marks the reversing flow of Tonle Sap River and also ushers in the fishing season. The highlight of the event, are the boat races that are held over three days. When night falls, fireworks light the sky and a lighted flotilla of boats sail aloft for good luck. Some say the celebration is also a thanksgiving to the Mekong River for providing the country with fertile land. People from all walks of life gather on the bank of the Mekong River for several days and nights.
November 1 st : Independence Day
December : International Half marathon Held at the world renowned Angkor Wat this event attracts competitors from around the world. With thousands of spectators and the wonder of Angkor Wat, it is a spectacular setting for this popular event.
December 25 th :Christmas Day
Other Holidays and Festivals Cambodia also celebrates other special days including: International Women’s Day (8 March), International Worker’s Day (1 May), Genocide Day (9 May), Vesak Bucha Day – the anniversary of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha (Late May), Children’s Day (1 June), Chol Vassa – Buddhist Lent (July), and International Human Rights Day (10 December).