By Soy Sophea
This year, Khmer New Year shall arrive on Sunday April 13, at 18:24. Traditionally, the date of Khmer New Year varies from year to year but it is generally set to coincide with the time when Cambodian people have almost completed harvesting of the dry season rice crop in April.
Cambodia, Motherland of the Khmer people, celebrates Khmer New Year with great religious fervor and spirit and is deeply influenced by Buddhist piety. The celebrations last for three days, giving Cambodians working in the city ample time to return to their hometowns to celebrate the Khmer New Year with family.
For this year, the Year of Mouse, Cambodian fortune tellers predict that this year will be a good year for all Cambodians and the nation as a whole. This bodes well for the smooth running of the national elections in July this year.
A 60-year-old Astrologer Phu Kimseng said that the Year of the Mouse is a happy year for the entire Kingdom of Cambodia, including those living below the poverty line.
Sitting on a small plastic chair in front of his fortune-telling paraphernalia, including magic books, incenses and candles, the toothless Kimseng, grins a big, gummy grin and speaks softly. “People should set their houses in order and prepare themselves to welcome the new Theravada [Angel]. We will all be happy if we pay our proper respects to the guiding spirit of this New Year”.
Kim Seng offered further advice. “Offer food to your parents and monks, clean yourself, and then you will be blessed.”
Khmer people have celebrated Khmer New Year for centuries, while the West chose to take January 1st to mark its new year.
Khmer New Year takes three days to complete, said Im Borin, scholar and member of the Research Committee on Khmer Astrology and Culture.
Borin added that on the first day of the ceremony, Sangkran (Sunday, April 13), people have to clean their homes in order to welcome the new Theravada named Thongsakdevi. When their homes are ready to accept such auspicious Heavenly guests, celebrants next go to the pagoda to offer food to the monks. In the evening they enjoy traditional Cambodian entertainments such as party games, singing, dancing, and so forth.
This year, in order to meet the Deity, the faithful are advised to acquire a sheet of white cloth one meter wide and two meters long. In addition, there should be a pair of 9, 7, 5 and 3 layer Stupa made of banana leaves etc. There should also be two bottles of perfume, five incense sticks, five candles, five cups of rice flakes and five flowers arranged on a large silver tray. Add to the mix two different species of banana, 11 additional species of fruit arranged in pairs, branches from a fig tree and a generous supply of sundry sweetmeats and the Deity will have an environment in which she can feel appreciated.
He added that the second day of the Khmer New Year is the Vanapata Day—the day between the former year and the New Year (April 14). The third is Loeung Sak Day.
For Loeung Sak Day, traditionally Khmer people bathe their parents to show their gratitude, and some people also return to the pagoda to bathe the statues of Buddha and pray for good fortune in the coming year.
He added that the activities on Loeung Sak Day are known as Srang Preah or “Bathing the God”. It is also customary for some celebrants to invite monks into their homes to recite the Dharma to dismiss bad fortune, bless the house and bring happiness to its inhabitants.
According to the traditional Khmer Moha Sang Kran Book, an equivalent of the Western Almanac, written by Im Borin, rice farmers can look forward to a generally good year. Rain for the upcoming year’s harvesting should be good at the beginning and at the end while in the middle only average precipitation is to be expected. Overall, paddy production is forecast to be good for the lowland farmer, but less than spectacular for his highland colleagues. Production will be down on last year’s figures but prices will be higher.
Somewhat unnervingly, the Moha Sang Kran also predicts production of other crops will be reduced by as much as 50 percent. There are also predicted to be bloody confrontations among the people, whilst intellectuals and charitable organizations look set to experience a very tough time during the year of the mouse.
Predictions relating to Vanapata Day, which this year falls on Monday include a rise in the price of salt and an increased prevalence of sickness amongst the people. Predictions for Loeung Sak Day state that all officers will live in peace, happiness and prosperity. Even though they face many obstacles, they are predicted to enjoy much success in the New Year.
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