The southern province of Tra Vinh is carrying out various activities to help the community enjoy the Khmer people’s traditional Chol Chnam Thmay New Year, which falls annually in mid-April.

Local authorities have held meetings, visited and presented gifts to social policy beneficiaries, heroic mothers, veterans and Khmer monks.

Apart from assistance for poor households to enjoy the festival, the province has collaborated with pagodas to organise Khmer art, sports activities and folk games for the Khmer people.

The Chol Chnam Thmay New Year festival is one of the most important festivals of the year for the Khmer people. It lasts three days (four days in leap years) and is usually held in a pagoda. On these festive days, people wish and pray for a lucky new year. Each of these days has its own name.

Apart from worshipping the Buddha, Khmer people believe that every year heaven sends a god called Tevoda to earth to look after human beings and their lives. At the end of the year, the god returns to heaven and another one will replace him.

On its eve, every family prepares a lavish meal, burns incense and candles to see off the old god and welcome the new one. On the altar, they present five flower branches, five candles, five incense sticks, five cereal seeds and fruit crops. They pray for health and luck in the New Year.

Khmer people always prepare for the New Year ceremony very carefully. They clean and redecorate their home and buy necessary food for the holidays. They stop all farm work, relax and set free their cattle. The three official festive days are held in a joyful and exciting way.

The first day is for the ceremony to receive the great calendar. On this day, at a selected hour no matter if it is in the morning or afternoon, people take a bath and put on their best clothes in anticipation of the New Year. They take incense, lamps, flowers and fruits to a pagoda where they do the great calendar-receiving ceremony. This rite is to welcome the New Year and wait for omens for a bad or good year.

The second day is for the ceremony to offer boiled rice and heap up a sandy mountain. On this day, every Khmer family cooks rice and offers it to Buddhist monks at the pagoda in the early morning and at noon. The monks chant prayers to thank those who make the food and bring it to their pagoda and say good luck to them.

On the afternoon of the same day, people start to heap up a sandy mountain in search of happiness and luck. They make small mountains looking towards eight directions and one in the middle which represents the universe. This custom originates from an age-old legend. It displays people’s aspirations for rain.

The third day is for the ceremony to wash the Buddha statue and Buddhist monks. After giving boiled rice to the monks in the morning, they continue to listen to Buddhist teachings. In the afternoon, they burn incense, offer sacrifices and use scented water to wash the statue in order to pay tribute and gratitude to the Buddha. This is also to get rid of the old year’s misfortunes and wish all the best for the New Year. The monks do a ceremony to pray for peace in the souls of the dead. After that, the people return to their houses and wash the Buddha’s statue at home. They offer dishes, confectionery and fruits to ask for happiness for their parents and grandparents and forgiveness for their mistakes made in the old year.

During these three days, Khmer people go to visit each other and wish good health, good luck and prosperity to each other. They also join in fun activities.

Chol Chnam Thmay festival shows Khmer people’s aspirations, like many other ethnic groups, to forget about the old year’s misfortunes and look forward to a better new year.-VNA