Happy New Year from Laos and Cambodia!

Phone Phao Temple Luang Prabang
Phone Phao Temple Luang Prabang

Happy…2558!

You thought it was 2014, but no, it is 2558 according to the Khmer people.

Khmer new year is just around the corner. This three day holiday begins on the 13th of April 2014, and is a celebration of a new year (Chaul Chnam Thmy) in the Cambodian Lunar Calendar.

Families head back to their home towns but many people also head to Angkor as the spiritual centre of the ancient Khmer culture to celebrate the new year

Smells of candles and incense fill the air on the first day with offerings made to the poor during the second day otherwise known as ‘Wanabat’. Day three, or, ‘Tanai Lieang Saka’ is the main celebration of the new year. Life giving water plays a huge part in the ceremonies and celebrations and is used to cleanse Buddha statues, priests and each other.

Buddha statue
Buddha statue

Buckets of water are thrown around temples and pagodas. Traditional Khmer games, dances, songs and lots of food are enjoyed by all around the country! Ever wondered what traditional Khmer songs, games and dances are like? – Wonder no more. Take a look at this little video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjxt3PtFCJg]

The festival marks a great time of year to be in Cambodia with a literal outpouring of happiness embracing the Khmer culture.

Sohkdee pbee mai – Happy New Year from Laos!

Phone Phao Temple
Phone Phao Temple

As the same Buddhist calendar is also used over the border in neighbouring Laos, unsurprisingly it’s about to be new year there too!

The Laos new year, or ‘Songkran’, is the most widely celebrated festival in the whole of the country. Like the Khmer new year, the festival begins on the 13th, the last day of the old year, and ends on the 15th, the first day of the new….The day in the middle is neither new or old, just somewhere in-between!

During this holiday, houses and villages are cleaned in preparation for the start of a new year. Similarly to the Cambodian tradition, Images of Buddah are also cleansed with water, however in Laos they don’t stop there.  Water cleansing stretches to drenching friends, family and passers by with buckets and pistols filled with coloured perfumed water! On these three days each year, cities around the country essentially transform into gigantic water fights, with music blasting out of vans on all corners as everyone joins in and gets soaked!

Monks in Luang Prabang
Monks in Luang Prabang

The new year can be celebrated all over the country, but for the most spectacular in terms of ceremony, Luang Prabang is the place to be. Thousands of sand stupas are created along the banks of the Mekong to prevent evil spirits travelling into the new year, there is a procession of Buddha through the streets and no event would be complete without a beauty contest…?! Miss New Year is paraded through the streets. Anyway, prepare to get very wet in Pimai Laos.

If you are up for the cultural event of the year in Cambodia or Laos and don’t mind getting wet, then make plans to head over in April for a bit of cultural soaking.

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