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Future blessings

On the corner of Sixth and Ritner streets between two buildings that house the Bra Buddha Ransi Temples more than 1,000 people gathered to ring in the Cambodian New Year's Year of the Ox.

By Alexis Abate
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 8 | Posted Apr. 23, 2009

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The Bra Buddha Ransi Temple at Sixth and Ritner streets was the site of thousandscelebrating and observing the Cambodian New Year, one of the biggest holidays on the country's calendar.

On the corner of Sixth and Ritner streets between two buildings that house the Bra Buddha Ransi Temples more than 1,000 people gathered to ring in the Cambodian New Year's Year of the Ox.

Saturday afternoon, groups danced in unison to Bayon -- a Cambodian band's mixture of traditional and modern songs sung in their native tone of Khmer. Some sat and ate on the carpeted floors outside the temple, while others grilled traditional meals in front of the homes along Ritner. Earlier in the day, children soaked up the excitement by playing customary games to relish one of the largest Buddhist and Southeastern Asian holidays. Each morning of the five-day celebration starts with a traditional ritual followed by Chayam drummers and dancers performing for the masses.

If children weren't dancing alongside the adults, they amused themselves with Silly String and blow-up comic characters such as Spider-Man. Americanized and authentic souvenirs were peddled on stands along street corners, not unlike those lining Broad Street during the Mummers' Parade. Although similarities to Philadelphia's long-standing tradition were present, the Cambodian event, which had the street blocked off, was unique in more ways than one. The majority of the men and women present were adorned in formal attire -- a tribute to the respect Cambodians pass on to the new year.

"Our culture dresses nice on the New Year to show off the family," Yun Or, treasurer of the Khmer Buddhist Humanitarian Association, said.

Cambodians believe wearing bold colors during the holiday season brings good luck and future blessings, Or said. This emotional connection allows Buddhists to look forward to the coming year and make amends for past mistakes. Traditional blessing dances called Robam Choun Por, among others, are performed to demonstrate the inner desire to change.

 

The Bra Buddha Ransi Temple, in conjunction with the Khmer Buddhist Humanitarian Association Inc. (KBHA), organized the local festivities to observe the Cambodian New Year that began April 13, the last day of the harvest season. According to Robert Koch, KBHA's vice president and CIO, since the date fell during the week, they decided to extend the celebrations -- usually spanning three to five days -- to run through the following weekend.

In Cambodia, different events occur each day to bless the impending year. Incense sticks are burned in front of Buddha statues, while donations and kind deeds for happiness and prosperity are dispensed. According to Koch, the country actually shuts down.

"Everybody living in the villages heads to the countryside," he said.

It is there the party extends into the wee hours of the morning. Locally, each day's festivities ceased much earlier at about 8 a.m.

Tradition surrounds the Cambodian New Year, which celebrated the Year of the Ox (Photo by Dashiell Davis).

But the shortened hours didn't hold anyone back from attending. According to Koch, who has been involved in the community for more than 20 years, about 1,400 people attended Saturday's festivities while more than 2,000 ventured out the following day. And the nice weather didn't hurt, either. Neighbor Sokhen Koe has enjoyed the entertainment for the last few years with his family.

"I'm having fun and I'll probably stay another couple hours," the resident of Fourth and Ritner streets said.

Koch and a Buddhist monk opened the temple in 2000 and have been organizing events ever since with this celebration being one of the largest to date. Although the Cambodian New Year is one of their most observed, Koe thinks all holidays are regaled. Other important feasts include Phnohn, which is comparable to Halloween.

"It is when we pray to people who have passed away to release them from hell," he said.

Kthin is another significant event in which Buddhists honor the dedication of their monks who remained in seclusion for three consecutive months.

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1. RiceFieldBorn said... on Apr 23, 2009 at 04:15PM

“KHMER NEW YEAR By: YENG SOTHY Remarks given at a New Year's celebration in April 2009 When seeing or hearing the word `Khmer' such as `Khmer New Year', Khmer Community, or Khmer Temple, many people are not familiar with the word `Khmer', and they ask what "Khmer" is. We would like to take this opportunity to provide a brief explanation about the word "Khmer". In practice, the two words, Khmer and Cambodian, can be used to replace each other. For example, Khmer New Year or Cambodian New Year, Khmer People or Cambodian People with the exception of its usage in the term `Khmer Rouge'. Kampuchea is a country of Khmer people. Kampuchea can be called [Khmer country]. The French call Kampuchea "Le Cambodge" and call the Khmer male "Le Cambodgien", the Khmer female as La Cambodgienne. A bit different from French, English usage names Kampuchea "Cambodia" and the Khmer people "Cambodian." However, the full definition of what is Khmer and what is Cambodian remains a larger topic for Khmer or Cambodian intellectuals to discuss, so we leave this discussion alone. Now, we would like to provide a brief description about Khmer or Cambodian New Year for people to get to know Khmer Culture better. In Cambodia, Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival, and it is also the greatest national holiday because it is three days of festival and can sometimes be four days. Khmer New Year begins on April 13th or can be on April 14th, depending on the "MohaSangkran," which is the ancient horoscope. In fact, Khmer New Year originally began on the first day of the first month in lunar calendar, which can be in November or the beginning of December. In the Angkor Era, the 13th Century, the Khmer King, either Suriyavaraman II or Jayavaraman VII, was the one who changed the New Year to the fifth month of the lunar calendar, in April by the solar calendar. 95% of Khmer populations are farmers, and the period from November through March is the busiest season for Khmer farmers to reap or harvest the crops from the rice fields. Khmer people can find free time in April because there is no rain, and it is very hot, so Khmer farmers have the time to take vacation after they have worked very hard to gather the rice crops from their rice fields to get their income. Therefore, April is the right time for Khmer people in Cambodia to celebrate New Year. The Khmer New Year festival originated from Brahmanism, the historical predecessor of Hinduism, which was a religion that Khmer people believed in before Buddhism. Later on Buddhism became associated with the festival and then took all the important roles in the festivity. Usually, Khmer New Year is celebrated for three days: The first day of New Year is called Moha Sangkran, and it can be described simply as the inauguration of the New Angels. For a one-year period they take care of the world protecting us from harm and destruction. This year is the year of Ox (Chhlov), and Moha-Sangkran of the New Year will begin on Tuesday, April 14th at 1: 36 AM. The leader of Angels is named Rea Kyasa Tevi. Khmer Buddhists are expected to clean and decorate the house, prepare fruits and drinks for the New Year inauguration, and to welcome the New Angels at every single home. Elderly people like to meditate or pray the Dharma at that time because they believe that any angel who comes to their house at that time will stay with them and take care of their family for the whole year. Actually, in the morning at the first day of New Year, most Khmer people prepare food to offer to the monks at a Khmer temple to get blessed. It is a great time for boys and girls to play traditional games together at the temple or any field or playground in their village because it is only time of New Year that boys and girls are allowed to play or to get together to celebrate. Also it is a wonderful time for single people to search for the special partner to get married in the future. The second day of New Year is called as Wannabot, which means day of offering gifts to the parents, grandparents and elders. Usually, Khmer People like to share gifts or presents to employees and also donate money or clothes to poor people. In the evening, people go to the temple to build a mountain of sand and ask the monks to give them a blessing of happiness and peace. The third day is called as day of "Leung Sakk;" that means the year starts to be counted up from this day, for example it is when the year of 2009 would change and begin to be 2010. Traditionally, in the morning, we used to go to the temple to perform the ceremony of the mountain of sand to get blessed. In the evening, to complete the New Year festival, Khmer people perform the last ceremony, called as "Pithi Srang Preah", which means giving a special bath or a special shower to Buddha statues, the monks, elders, parents, and grandparents to apologize for any mistake we have done to them and to gratify them. Everyone who participates has a wonderful time during this ceremony because it is a great opportunity for everyone, young and old, man and woman to have much fun by spreading joy and good will to one another and sharing in laughter with each other. Khmer New Year is the greatest traditional festival for Cambodians and this celebration helps to build up many unforgettable souvenirs in the memory of all Khmer people for years and years to come. ”

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2. Darl said... on Apr 23, 2009 at 05:36PM

“I love your comment and I thank you for your sharinng. May Happinesses and Prosperities be with you and all viewers throgh the year of OX. ”

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3. cmc said... on Apr 24, 2009 at 04:32AM

“It's great that the Cambodians are celebrating their New Year but it'd be wonderful if they'd clean up the park when its over. After every function the park is totally trashed with litter. Children play all around it. Is it too much to ask? It's totally disgusting. ”

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4. Yeng Chap said... on Apr 25, 2009 at 04:40PM

“Reposted by Yeng Chab Recourse from: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2009041425364/Life-Style/Khmer-New-Year-in-Phnom-Penh-need-not-be-boring.html Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh need not be boring Written by Tom Hunter Tuesday, 14 April 2009 As Phnom Penh empties for Khmer New Year, a few restaurants and bars are to remain open, offering provide entertainment throughout the holiday. 090414_13.jpg Photo by: Tracey Shelton Kids play with powder during Khmer New Year celebrations. THE mass exodus of capital residents from Phnom Penh to their home provinces or various waterside retreats for Khmer New Year has left the city with only a scattering of residents wondering what to do with their precious time off work. It's hard to imagine the capital lying dormant in the heat for three days and, thankfully, this will not be the case, with live music and a range of restaurants and bars remaining open over the festive period. It's business as usual at the FCC, Comme a la Maison, the Magic Sponge, Tamarind, Metro and Chow, to name only a handful. Some of the city's hotels are offering special deals for the New Year, with Raffles celebrating the holiday period with a special Khmer New Year dinner available every night of the holiday at the Restaurant Le Royal. Prices start at US$35 for three courses, with one person dining free of charge at a table of four. For those looking for something more casual, the Magic Sponge on the lakeside will be playing the Champions League Football each night with food and drink specials available during Liverpool games. And for punters who want to let their hair down in a more traditional sense, well, Phnom Penh is still the place to be. Traditional games City Hall is throwing a party each night at Wat Phnom. Traditional games such as chol chhuong will be played in the early evening between 3pm and 6pm, followed by live music late into the night. Chol chhoung is a traditional Khmer New Year game played on the first night of the holiday between groups of boys and girls. The game simply involves throwing the chhoung at your opposing team to wither down the opposition's integrity, with Khmer songs thrown in for fun. It's the Khmer version of dodge-ball, minus Vince Vaughn. At Wat Botum, the party will begin with a comedy show from 7pm to 12am, and with a popular dance concert to follow. On the downside, an array of places will shut for extended periods over the Khmer New Year. The Shop, Fresco, Gasolina, Java, Meta House, Talkin' to a Stranger, Vans, Gym Bar and Green Vespa are just a few of the places that will be closed. ”

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5. Yeng Chap said... on Apr 25, 2009 at 04:44PM

“Khmer New Year is coming! You know why we celebrate the New Year? We have done enough with scientific proof at school. For a change, here is a tale of how the New Year came up. Once upon a time, there was this boy named Thombal Komar born to a poor farmer family. However, he was blessed with good health and wealth of wit. It was believed that his knowledge surpassed that of the people in the country as a whole. He was truly a know-it-all. More, he also had this unique ability to listen to animal languages. His fame was heard by this powerful God called Kabel Mohar Prom who always boosted that he was the wisest man in the universe. He immediately went to the Boy and challenged him with three riddles with the condition that if the Boy failed to give correct answers, he would decapitate him. Conversely, he would behead himself if the boy could answer all the riddles. He gave the boys 5 days to think for the solution. The second last day came and the Boy still did not have any clue for the riddles. Worn with fatigue from days and nights of thinking, he wandered alone into deep forest. Is he going to commit suicide? No, of course. It was just for a change of environment. He took a rest under a pair of palm trees. On top these twin palm trees there lived a couple of vultures. Deep into his thought, he was interrupted by a conversation by the two vultures. The female vulture told the male that they are having a big feast tomorrow as Thombal Komar would not be able to answer the riddles and would be beheaded by Kabel Mohar Prom. Being curious the male asked the female about the riddles. To show off, the female cited the three riddles and answers to the male. Riddle 1: In the morning where is the happiness of a man? Answer 1: Face. It is why we wash our face clean to get happiness in the morning. Riddle 2: In the afternoon where is the happiness of a man? Answer 2: Chest. It is why we wet our chest in the afternoon to get good health and happiness. Riddle 3: At night where is the happiness of a man? Answer 3: Feet. It is why we wash our feet clean before going to bed to get happiness. Being overjoyed, the boy ran back home and gave the answers to the riddles the next day. As a man of his word, Mohar Prom pulled out his razor-sharp sword. He was about to behead himself but he recalled something, SOMETHING that is dreadful and devastating to all human beings. His head is very powerful. If it falls to the ground, the whole world will be turned to ash by fire. If it falls into the sea, the water will be dried up. If it is thrown into the air, vapor will be dried up from the atmosphere and drought will prevail. He called for his seven daughters to bring a golden tray for his head. He asked them to place his head in the core of Mount Meru and each to take turn to guard his head. Those were his last words. The time that his seven Daughters swap their turn also marks the beginning of New Year. The turn is arranged according to on which day of the week the task of guarding the head by the girl on dutry is finished. Below is the schedule: Saturday: First Daughter Tungsa Monday: Second Daughter Koraka Tuesday: Third Daughter Rakasa Wednesday: Forth Daughter Monda Thurday: Fifth Daughter Kerini Friday: Sixth Daughter Kemira Saturday: Seventh Daughter Mohadara For this year, the start of New Year falls on Saturday. Hence, it is Mohadara’s turn to guard the head. HOPE IT WILL NOT BE A TOO BORING JOB FOR HER. Adapted from General Knowledge Book By CHHAY SOK. ”

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6. Yeng Chap said... on Apr 25, 2009 at 04:45PM

“For this year, probably year 2007?”

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7. Pros said... on Apr 25, 2009 at 05:19PM

“Repost by Yeng Sothy Leng Lim, Author Secretary of board directors of Khmer Community, Seattle, WA Remarks given at a New Year's celebration in April 2001 http://ethnomed.org/ethnomed/cultures/cambodian/khmer_new_yr.html”

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8. Pros said... on Apr 25, 2009 at 05:34PM

“From what I knew the Cambodian Community have been tried to clean the park so many time even they do not use the park for their new year celebration but it didn't work out good. I have been live near to the park since 2000 long time ago before the Cambodians celebrating their New year at six and Ritner not on the park. The park is always totally trashed with litter not only on the New Year day but every days, every months and every years since I first came to live near the park. There were a lot of Americans, Vietnamese, Laotians and many other ethnics used the park. The city and all of us should not always close our eyes and just blaming each other. It's totally disgusting.”

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