New Year Glimpses

The celebrations of the Khmer New Year in April and the Lunar New Year (also called Chinese New Year and Tet) in February have a lot of similarities as well as differences.

Both are the major festivals of their respective countries and are celebrated for two-weeks. Both are based on the lunar calendar.

We are just now finishing the celebration of the Lunar New Year in Cambodia—even though it is not a holiday here. Many Cambodians have some Chinese ancestry and since the government does not recognize the Lunar New Year as an official holiday, they just take annual leave and celebrate any way. So many staff take leave that many NGOs officially close at this time. Many schools close likewise because the teachers would be there without any students.

This closing of schools, shops, stores, etc., happens at both the Khmer New Year and the Chinese New Year. The big difference is that at the Khmer New Year all the city people head to their home provinces while at this Lunar New Year they close but stay in Phnom Penh.

Because more people are around for the Lunar New Year, more restaurants and shops stay open than would be the case at the Khmer New Year.

Common to both new years is the making of offerings to honor ancestors. The boy above is setting out metal containers for burning paper offerings, and the families will offer fruit and food and drinks according to their means. At the top is a simple offering left in a doorway, and at the bottom is a lavish offering from a wealthy family.