Holidays in Cambodia
Most legal holidays fall on the same dates every year. Some holidays such as Khmer New Year, Visakhaboja, Royal Ploughing Ceremony, Prachum Ben and the Water Festival follow the lunar calendar and move a few days forward or back each year. Some holidays which are not legal holidays in Cambodia such as Chinese New Year receive almost as much attention and celebration as legal holidays.
August 2009 - The mid rainy season is thin on significant holidays, but late September begins the ‘season of celebrations’ in Cambodia - a string of important holidays and festivals beginning with Pchum Benh in September and stretching though Khmer New Year in April. Bonn Om Touk (the Water Festival) coming up in November is one of the most festive and colorful holidays of the year, especially in Phnom Penh. It’s a great time to visit the city
January 01, International New Year's Day
January 07, Victory Day over Genocide Day (Liberation Day)
This holiday commemorates the fall of the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979 and honors those lost in the genocide and who sacrificed in retaking the country. Colorful ceremonies are held at the Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach.)
January 26, Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is not a legal or official holiday in Cambodia but is widely celebrated anyway, primarily by those of Chinese and part Chinese descent and ethnic Vietnamese. This year the Year of the Rat will come to an end and the Year of the Ox begins. Red and yellow are the colors of the day and celebrants decorate the homes and workplaces in tune with the holiday, preparing a festive displays of offerings including red pig, drinks, fruits, cigarettes and other treats. Traditional ‘lion dancers’ can be seen performing at homes and businesses across town for several days around New Years Day. On the night of New Year’s Eve people flock to the pagodas to make offerings. Wat Phnom is one of the busiest and most popular pagodas, especially New Years Eve midnight.
February 02, Meak Bochea Day' (Magha Puja Day)
Falling on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month, Meak Bochea Day commemorates a great meeting of Buddha and monks in which there were four significant events and where Buddha gave an oration laying out the principles of his teachings. Meak Bochea is an important Buddhist holiday though it is not as conspicuously celebrated as other holidays such as Visaka Boche later in the year. The pagodas are quite active and colorful on this day
March 08, International Women's Day
April 14-16, Khmer New Year (Chaul Chhnam Thmey)
Along with Ph’chum Benh and the Water Festival, Khmer New Year is one of the most important and popular holidays of the year, generating a festive air of parties and visits to the pagoda. In the weeks leading up to the holiday children and teens play special holiday games in the streets. Come New Years eve beautiful offerings of food, drink and incense are set on palm-frawned tables in front of homes and the New Year enters at an hour designated by the lunar calendar, not necessarily at midnight. The New Year is traditionally accompanied by the practice of tossing water and powder on friends and passers-by, and though the practice is discouraged in the city, the area around Wat Phnom still sees a lot of good natured water throwing on New Year.
May 01, International Labor Day
May 8, Visaka Bochea Day
Often referred to as ‘Buddha's birthday,’ the holiday actually takes in the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha. The faithful attend pagoda, make offerings and engage in kind and charitable acts and reverent behavior. A colorful, busy day at the pagodas.
May 12, Royal Ploughing Ceremony (Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal)
The Royal Ploughing ceremony marks the beginning of the rainy season and the planting season. In a ceremony led by the King or other high official, highly adorned sacred cows plough a sacred furrow and then are led to trays containing rice, corn, beans and other foods. Agricultural predictions are made based on the quantity and order in which the cows eat the food. Ceremonies are usually held next to the Royal Palace, in front of the National Museum.
May 13-14-15, Birthday of the King
The birthday of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromoneath NORODOM SIHAMONI's.
June 01, International Children's Day
June 18, Birthday of the former Queen
The birthday of Her Majesty Samdech Preah Reach Aka Mohesey NORODOM MONINEATH SIHANOUK's.
September 18-20, Bonn Pchum Ben
Pchum Ben generates an air of spiritual reverence and holiday expectation throughout the country. Along with Khmer New Year and the Water Festival, Pchum Benh is one of the most important Khmer holidays of the year. It is a holiday to honor and care for the spirits of ancestors, said to return to earth during this period. People travel to pagodas to make offerings of food, incense and money to help ease spirits’ burden. This is a colorful, photogenic time at the pagodas. All government offices and many business close for the holiday.
September 24, Constitution's Day
October 23, Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia (No longer an official holiday.)
October 29, Coronation Day Anniversary of the coronation of His Majesty King NORODOM SIHAMONI of Cambodia. The Palace is lighted at night and always looking its best at this holiday.
October 31, Birthday of the King Father His Majesty King Father NORODOM SIHANOUK of Cambodia.
November 1-3, Water and Moon Festival
Bonn Om Touk, also known as the Water Festival and the Boat Race Festival, celebrates the reversing of the current in the Tonle Sap River and marks the beginning of the fishing season. Traditional long-boat races are held on the Tonle Sap River centered in front of the Royal Palace. Dozens of colorful dug-out row boats compete for prizes and honors. Fireworks and a water-borne parade of lighted barges cap events in the early evening. People and vendors pack the riverfront parks to watch the races and the whole area takes on a carnival atmosphere. The best views are from hotel balconies and the restaurants such as the FCC overlooking the river.
November 09, Independence Day Colorful ceremonies held at the Independence Monument in the morning. Fireworks on the riverfront in the evening.