Cambodia has a wealth of traditional and international festivals. Most of these are a time of great rejoicing for the predominantly rural populace, many of whom flock to the capital to join in the celebrations and witness the organized fireworks displays which accompany the festivals.
The festivals, which serve as a source of great joy, merriment and Cambodia’s national colors, play a major role in influencing tourists’ opinions, behaviors, and options. Most of these are a time of great rejoicing for the predominantly urban and the rural populace.
The holidays that really count are Buddhist in origin – not even the Khmer Rouge could eradicate the practice of holidays like Pchum Ben. Even the increasing presence of modern Western culture has done little to change the way the Cambodians celebrate the ebb and flow of life. Cambodian holiday celebrations are, and will always be, all about religion, tradition, and occasionally the Khmer’s irrepressible sense of fun.
- Khmer New Year’s Day -: Chol Chnam Thmey in the Khmer language – is one of Cambodia’s major holidays. Communities with roots in the Khmer culture – most Cambodians and the Khmer minority in Vietnam – stop work for three whole days to return to their home communities and celebrate. This festival is one of the happiest times of the year with joyous smiling faces everywhere you turn. Cambodians do recognize International New Year on 1 January but there are no celebrations then.
- May 13-15 – King Norodom Sihamoni’s Birthday: – During the anniversary of King Norodom Sihamoni’s birthday, many government buildings are decorated with small colorful lights and large portraits of the King together with best wishes and congratulatory words for the King. The day of his birthday and the two days following it are national holidays throughout Cambodia.
- November 9 – National Independence Day:– This day marks the anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. The celebrations are centered around the Independence Monument at the center of Phnom Penh, where the King lights a victory fire in the presence of the country’s politicians, generals, and diplomats. The celebrations also include cultural activities, parades down Norodom Boulevard, and fireworks in the evening.
- Bon Om Touk – Cambodian Water Festival:– It takes place once a year, on the full moon of the Buddhist month of Kadeuk, the 12th day of the Khmer Lunar Calendar (usually in November). It celebrates a major natural occurrence: the reversing flow between the Tonle Sap and the Mekong River. This natural occurrence is celebrated in Cambodia with three days of festivals, fluvial parades, boat races, fireworks.