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How khmer celebrate the new year

Written By vibykhmer on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | 8:57 PM

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The history of the Khmer New Year is closely connected to the seven signs of the zodiac for the week. The legend of the New Year is detailed in the Almanac which says: In ancient, happier times, a young man by the name of Thoamabal, the son of a tycoon, had an extensive knowledge of three Vedas (ancient books on Hinduism) by the age of seven. Thoamabal's father built a temple under the spread of a large Chrey tree (a fig tree) on the banks of a river that was home to many species of birds. He had an innate ability that enabled him to understand the languages of birds. He had an innate ability that enabled him to understand the languages of birds.

Thoamabal's attributes allowed him to become a layman in charge of religious ceremonies for all classes of people. Upon hearing this news another religious leader Kabel Maha Prohm, decided to challenge Thoamabal with tree riddles. He vowed that if Thaomabal could successfully answer the riddles he, Kabel Maha Prohm, would be beheaded; however if Thoamabal could not answer the riddles correctly then it would be Thoamabal who would be beheaded. Thoamabal insisted on having seven days to answer the puzzling enigma until Kabel Maha Prohm agreed.

For six days Thoamabal could not solve the problems and knew that he faced the prospect of being killed by Kabel Maha Prohm the next morning. He therefore decided ton hide himself and let his life fade away by natural causes. He hid himself beneath a pair of sugar palm trees in which a pair of eagles were nesting, that night Thoamabal overheard the eagles talking.

The female asked, "What will we eat tomorrow morning?" The male eagle replied, "We will eat the flesh of Thoamalobal because tomorrow he is going to be beheaded by Kabie Maha Prohm due to his inability to solve the riddles". The female then asked, "What are the riddles?" The male answered, "The first riddle is, where is luck to be found in the mornine?" Of course the answer is that luck is on the face because people always take water to wash their faces.

The second riddle asked, where is luck located at noon? It is on the chest because people always take water to wash their chests. Finally, the third question asked, where is luck located in the evening? The answer is that luck is on the feet because people always wash their feet in the evening. Thoamabal overheard all of the conversation and so happily returned to his temple. In the morning Kabel Maha Prohm came to ask Thoamabal if he could answer the three riddles.

Thoamabal successfully answered each of the riddles. Kabel Maha Prohm realixing he had failed, called his seven daughters, who were maids of Branma, to learn of his fate.Kabal Maha Prohm said, "Your father is foing to be beheaded in front of Thoamabal. If my head is set on the earth , if will set fire to Earth, if my head is thrown into the air, the rain will evaporate, if my head is thrown into the sea, the sea will dry up. Therefore I ask you, my seven daughters to get a holy metal tray on which to set your father's head". Having said this, he beheaded himself and his head was passed to Neang Toungsa, the eldest of his daughters. She placed her father's head on the holy tray and then proceeded to walk around Mount Meru for one hour, respectfully keeping the tray on her right hand. She then took the tray to the temporary sanctuary of Phnom Kailas. At Phnom Kailas, Preah Visakam created a hall where seven holy glasses (Pheakabatei Saphea) were set. The glasses were for use by angels during ceremonies. Each year the seven angels took turns to invoke the head of Kabel Maha Prohm to and complete a holy procession around Mount Meru. Following the holy procession the angels returned to their heaven.

The Seven Angels of the Almanac: If the annual procession talls on a Sunday then the day will be known as Toungsa. The other days are, Monday is Kooreak, Tuesday is called Reaksa, Wednesday is named Monday, Tuesday will be Kereney, Friday is known as Kemera and Saturday is Mahaotra.

Tanai Lieang Saka is the name of the third day of the New Year celebration. Buddhist cleanses the Buddha statues and elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is the symbol that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future.


The Three Days of Khmer New Year

Moha Songkran is the name of the first day of the New Year celebration. It is the ending of the year and the beginning of a new one. People dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines. The members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha's teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before his image. For good luck people wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed.

Wanabat is the name of the second day of the New Year celebration. People contribute charity to the less fortunate, help the poor, servants, homeless people, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery.

Tanai Lieang Saka is the name of the third day of the New Year celebration. Buddhist cleanses the Buddha statues and elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is the symbol that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future.

Khmer New Year Traditions

In temples, people erect a sand hillock on temple grounds. They mound up a bigpointed hill of sand or dome in the center which represents Culamuni Cetiya, the stupa at Tavatimsa, where the Buddha's hair and diadem are buried. The big stupa is surrounded by four small ones, which represent the stupas of the Buddha's favorite disciples which are Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, and Maha Kassapa. There is another tradition, that is pouring water or plaster on someone.
Khmer New Year is a time to prepare special dishes. One of these is kralan, a cake made from steamed rice mixed with beans or peas, grated coconut and coconut milk. The mixture is stuffed inside a bamboo stick and slowly roasted.


Khmer games

Cambodia is home to a variety of games played to transform the dullest days into a memorable occasion. Through-out the Khmer New Year, street corners often are crowded with friends and families enjoying a break from routine, filling their free time dancing and play. Typically Khmer games help maintain one's mental and physical dexterity. The body's blood pressure, muscle system and brain all are challenged and strengthened in the name of fun.
• 1. "Tres"
A game played by throwing and catching a ball with one hand while trying to catch an increasing number of sticks with the other hand. Usually, pens or chopsticks are used as the sticks to be caught.
• 2. "Chol Chhoung"
A game played especially on the first nightfall of the Khmer New Year by two groups of boys and girls. Ten or 20 people comprise each group, standing in two rows opposite each other. One group throws the "chhoung" to the other group. When it is caught, it will be rapidly thrown back to the first group. If someone is hit by the "chhoung," the whole group must dance to get the "chhoung" back while the other group sings.
• 3. "Chab Kon Kleng"
A game played by imitating a hen as she protects her chicks from a crow. Adults typically play this game on the night of the first New Year's day. Participants usually appoint a person with a strong build to play the hen leading many chicks. Another person is picked to be the crow. While both sides sing a song of bargaining, the crow tries to catch as many chicks as possible as they hide behind the hen.
• 4. "Bos Angkunh"
A game played by two groups of boys and girls. Each group throws their own "angkunh" to hit the master "angkunhs," which belong to the other group and are placed on the ground. The winners must knock the knee of the losers with the "angkunh." "Angkunh" is the name of an inedible fruit seed, which looks like the knee bone.
• 5. "Leak Kanseng"
A game played by a group of children sitting in circle. Someone holding a "kanseng" (Cambodian towel) twisted into a round shape walks around the circle while singing a song. The person walking secretly tries to place the "kanseng" behind one of the children. If that chosen child realizes what is happening, he or she must pick up the "kanseng" and beat the person sitting next to him or her.
• 6. "Bay Khom"
A game played by two children in rural or urban areas during their free time. Ten holes are dug in the shape of an oval into a board in the ground. The game is played with 42 small beads, stones or fruit seeds. Before starting the game, five beads are put into each of the two holes located at the tip of the board. Four beads are placed in each of the remaining eight holes. The first player takes all the beads from any hole and drops them one by one in the other holes. He or she must repeat this process until they have dropped the last bead into a hole lying beside an empty one. Then they must take all the beads in the hole that follows the empty one. At this point, the second player begins to play. The game ends when all the holes are empty. The player with the greatest number of beads wins the game
• 7. "Klah Klok"
A game played by Cambodians of all ages. It is a gambling game that is fun for all ages. There is a mat & dice. You put money on the object that you believe the person rolling the dice (which is usually shaken in a bowl type) and you wait. If the objects face up on the dice are the same as the objects you put money on. You double it. If there are two of yours you triple, and so on.

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