Festivals and Holidays in CambodiaKirsty Turner
The people of Cambodia love to party, and visitors will want to time their visit to coincide with at least one of the vibrant festivals and holidays that take place throughout the year. while many are held to mark special religious events and focus around the country’s temples, others are simply ways to mark historical and cultural events.
Whatever the occasion, the Khmer people celebrate with style, and most festivals are colourful events that feature fireworks displays as well as feasting, drinking and dancing. All are welcome to join in the fun, and foreigners especially are persuaded to get involved and let their hair down for a while.
Here are some festivals to put in your diary:
Held on January 7th, this holiday marks the end of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.
Chinese New Year
Held somewhere between the end of January and the start of February, this vibrant festival features firework displays and parades through the streets.
Khmer New Year
This festival takes place in the middle of April and marks the end of the harvest. The people of Cambodia decorate their houses and gather for elaborate family feasts. The streets also erupt in all out war as people keep their cool during the hottest part of the year by firing water pistols at each other.
Royal Ploughing Day
Taking place in May, the Royal Ploughing Day pays homage to the mighty ox. The best place to take in the festivities is in Phnom Penh, particularly near the Royal Palace and the National Museum.
King Sihanouk’s birthday celebration
October 31st is a special day for the people of Cambodia, who gather at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and all along the river in order to pay their respects.
Held at the end of October, the Water Festival lasts for three days. Like the Khmer New Year, part of the fun here is the street water fights, and those who plan to keep dry at this time of your will have to stay well hidden indoors. However, those who dare to join in are sure to have fun and among the highlights at this time of year are the boat races along the Tonle Sap and Monkong River.
November 9th is the day for the Khmer people to celebrate their independence, which was finally granted by the French government in 1953. To witness the festivities, head to Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument.