Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Nation’s Khmer minority celebrates New Year

14/04/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – The middle of April is a thrilling time for Khmer ethnic people in the southern province of Soc Trang as they await Chaul Chnam Thmey (New Year's Day) Festival, their biggest event of the year.

Preparations started days before the festival. With the festival kicking off today, the weekend saw Khmer ethnic people hanging flags, decorating the pagoda with flowers and tidying houses and ancestral altars.

Chaul Chnam Thmey is a holiday unique to the Khmer ethnic people, helping them pray for an abundant crop. It is similar to Lunar New Year festivities in the rest of Vietnam.

The festival is mostly a high-spirited event, full of folk games like singing competitions, tug-of-war, boat races on the river and wrestling.

The festival takes place over three days. On the first day of the New Year, people wash up to attend the festival procession and a ceremony following Khmer people's belief, honouring God.

The ceremony runs until mid-night. Buddhist priests recite scriptures to wish luck for the New Year.

On the second day, people bring vegetarian food to the monks. The monks thank them and wish happiness for the people. The food is intended for hungry spirits.

Khmer people hope for pleasant weather by building small sandy mountains as a symbol of the universe. A man called Achar hosts the ceremony in the afternoon.

On the third day, the people wash a statue of Buddha in a formal and solemn ceremony. People then visit the graves of their forefathers and commemorate their ancestors. Following the solemn day is an upbeat festival that runs until the evening.

On this occasion, many families bathe their grandparents and eminent monks in a simple ritual to recognise their honour.

The festival is a chance for the Khmer people to bring out their local specialities, including vermicelli, swallow's nest pie, fried pie made from rice, pork, shrimp, green pea and soy-bean and pineapple pie.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

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