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Home Travel Guide Cambodia Travel Guide 10 Festivals in Cambodia to Have a Glimpse of Rich Culture

10 Festivals in Cambodia to Have a Glimpse of Rich Culture

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In Cambodia, there are many festivals throughout the year, such as Khmer New Year, Bon Om Touk, Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Pchum Ben, etc. Most of these festivals carry traditional culture and customs, making them a great time to experience the rich Cambodian culture. Here is our selection of the 10 best festivals in Cambodia to check what you can expect from these festivals and see how the locals celebrate them.

1. Khmer New Year

Locally known as Choul Chnam Thmey, Khmer New Year is the largest traditional Cambodian festival, falling on April 13th or 14th. It is a 3-day festival when locals reunite with their family members and perform traditional rituals such as praying at temples, offering food, and lighting candles at the shrine of the dead.

Khmer New Year marks the end of the harvest season when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. An interesting fact here is that Khmer people do not bless each other with good luck during the year, but instead welcome the New Year with a water-sprinkling ceremony.

cai rang floarting market

2. Bon Om Touk

Aka the Water Festival, Bon Om Touk is another festival celebrated with great pomp in Cambodia, for 3 days in Phnom Penh during the full moon in December of the Buddhist calendar. It is set up to celebrate the end of the rainy season and the receding of the river.

cai rang floarting market

The Mekong River swells during the rainy season due to heavy rainfall, but it also brings a lot of fertile silt, which is good for agricultural production. Therefore, when the river recedes, people express their gratitude with joy for the river that has brought abundant water and natural fertilizer to the earth.

All Cambodian citizens, farmers, and foreign tourists gather in Phnom Penh to celebrate this festival, during which boat races are held, accompanied by traditional Khmer music and special dance performances until late at night.

3. Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Royal Ploughing Ceremony is a traditional agricultural festival with a ceremony led by royalty to mark the beginning of the rice growing season. This traditional event is organized by the King of Cambodia in early May.

A representative of the King of Cambodia selects two oxen to pull the plow to start the ceremony, marking the beginning of a good harvest season. No matter how modern life is, the Khmer people have always believed that the ceremony would bring a good harvest and avoid drought, flooding, famine, and disease.

4. Visakha Puja

It is the most important festival for Cambodian monks, celebrating the birth, enlightenment, and Nirvana of the Buddha, with monastery-centered celebrations. Visakha Puja is celebrated on the 15th of June in the Buddhist calendar and is most solemnly celebrated at Angkor Wat, where monks parade with candlelight. Buddhist followers pray to Buddha and donate food and clothing to local monks on this day.

cai rang floarting market

5. Pchum Ben

Pchum Ben, also known as Ancestors’ Day, is held from October 1 to 15 of the Buddhist calendar each year (usually in September on the Gregorian calendar). It is intended to pay homage to the deceased, but it has a more religious connotation.

On this day, Cambodians visit up to seven pagodas to pray for their beloved ancestors, offer food, and light candles to guide the spirits of the deceased home.

6. Cambodian Independence Day

On November 9, 1953, the Kingdom of Cambodia declared its independence from French colonial rule, and this day was designated Cambodian Independence Day. The celebration is held at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh and is presided over by the ruling King of Cambodia, who lights the fire of victory in the presence of the country’s generals, politicians, and diplomats. On this day, stores throughout the city will be decorated with the national flag as a symbol of national pride, and visitors will witness the splendid fireworks as well as the parades.

7. Meak Bochea Day

Also known as the Buddha’s Preachment Commemoration Ceremony, Meak Bochea Day is celebrated during the full moon of the third month of the Khmer lunar calendar (between January – February). This is the most important festival for Cambodian monks and marks the beginning of all religious festivals in Cambodia.

On this day, monks all over Cambodia celebrate the historic moment when Buddha preached to thousands of monks. The monks meditate and pray during the day, then circle the central altar twice with incense sticks, candles, and flowers under the night sky of the full moon.

8. King Norodom Sihamoni's Birthday

This is a national holiday in Cambodia, celebrated every year on May 14th, to mark the royal birthday of King Norodom Sihamoni of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The celebration lasts 2 days from 2020 (previously 3 days) when the streets are decorated with banners and billboards and many businesses and homes post his pictures to commemorate the day.

9. Victory Day

Victory Day, held on January 7th each year, commemorates Cambodia’s liberation from a brutal regime on January 7, 1979. Cambodia celebrates Victory Day with cultural performances and exhibitions designed to remind the country of the once dreadful Khmer Rouge regime.

Tens of thousands of people gather in Phnom Penh for the annual event to remember those who died in the genocide.

10. Angkor Festival

Held in the ancient Khmer capital of Siem Reap, the Angkor Festival is one of Cambodia’s most popular annual events, with even the King of Cambodia himself sometimes attending the event.

Performers from all over Asia come to Angkor Wat to put on spectacular performances based on the country’s epic mythology. Visitors can enjoy traditional dances, bull races, native concerts, and other performances showcasing New Year’s themes, as well as participate in various folklore games such as tug-of-war at the Elephant Terrace, the Royal Garden, and Pub Street.

cai rang floarting market

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