New Year’s Chinese Day of Cambodia

The Cambodians choose the 10th month of the Chinese calendar, which they called katek (Kadek) as their first month. In front of the palace, people build a large pavilion which could hold more than a thousand people inside. The pavilion is decorated with wreathes and flowers. In front of the pavilion about 200 hatthas (one hattha is about one and a half feet), another pavilion, about 200 hattha tall, was built in the adjacent field. At night, several fireworks were lit up to celebrate the New Year. In the tall pavilion, the King was seated to observe the firework displays which were about 100 li’s away but people can see and hear them clearly. The fireworks sound like artillery gun salutes which could be heard all over the city.

New Year’s Chinese Day of Cambodia Photo Gallery

Court officials and their relatives are all holding candles, beetle leaves and nuts bouquets, and other celebratory wreathes. It looks like a very expensive undertaking. The King has also invited foreign dignitaries to attend the New Year celebration. The ceremony lasted for a fortnight.

In each month, there was always a ceremony or celebration of some sorts. For example, in the 4th month, people celebrate bos chhoung (a game in which a group of young men and women using scarves tying into a ball to through at each other. Notice: This game is still being played nowadays during New Year celebration). In the 9th month, people hold Ab Lak (a form of parade procession in front of the palace). In the 5th month, people hold royal bathing and a mock boat racing (rowing boat on land). During boat rowing ceremony, the King would watch it from the terrace of a pavilion. In the 7th month, during which rice harvesting begin, people would hold ceremonial burning of rice mount. The rices are brought through the southern gate of the city and piled up in designated places to be burned as worshiping gestures to Buddha. There are a lot of women riding in ox carts or on elephant’s backs to attend the ceremony. As for the King, he does not attend this ceremony.

In the 8th month, people celebrate Ai-lam (dancing ceremony). The best Ai-lam’s (Chhai Yam?) dancers and musicians are invited to perform in the palace every day. Beside the celebrations mentioned above, there are also animal sporting shows such as pigs fighting, elephants wrestling, etc. During these animals sporting shows, one could see the King and some invited foreign dignitaries in attendance. The animal sporting shows lasted for 10 days. There are also ceremonial activities in other months which I failed to write down. Like China, Cambodia also has astrologers who could predict natural phenomena such as solar and lunar eclipses. If there were a solstice, one month would be counted twice in the yearly cycle. Each night is divided into 5 watches. And each week consists of 7 days which was known as a cycle.

The Cambodians do not use family names. Neither had they recorded their birthdates. In general, people use the name of the day in which they were born as their name. According to the Zodiac prediction, there are also certain days that were considered good or safe for traveling to certain cardinal directions. The women folks could also tell or select days for conducting daily rituals. Like Chinese, the Cambodians use animals to represent each of the 12 Zodiac years. However, they call those years in different names. For example, the year of the horse is called: poksay, the year of the rooster: lak, the year of the pig: chek-lu, the year of the ox: ku, etc.

Source: Travels Maps

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