Songkran (Thai: เทศกาลสงกรานต์
Pii Mai (Lao: ປີໃໝ່,
Choul Chnam Thmey Khmer: បុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំថ្មី)
Choul Chnam Thmey
Cambodian New Year is called Choul Chnam Thmey, which means “Enter New Year”. Lao new Year is called Pii Mai, and Thai new year is called Songkran. In all three cultures, the holiday lasts three days and is celebrated in accordance to the Buddhist calendar. The difference between Lao and Cambodian New Year versus Thai New year is that Thai new Year begins one day earlier. This is because Thai New Year actually begins on the last day of the old year, whereas Cambodian and Lao New Year start on the first day of the new year.
The first day of the new year is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. This year, Thai new Year is from April 13 – April 15, and Cambodian and Lao New Year is on April 14 – 16. 2017 is the year of the rooster! Burmese, Dai, Sri Lankan, Tai Khamti, and Tamil New year are also celebrated on the same or similar dates.
In Thai culture, one of the traditions that we do is pour water over our elders hands. Pouring water represents purification and specifically the washing away of negativity and sins so that you can start the new year off fresh. It is now celebrated by many young people as a huge water festival where there are water fights in the streets with loud music and lots of festivity. This year, Google’s doodle recognized Songkran.
In Cambodian culture, each day has a particular name and purpose. On the first day, people pay homage to Buddha by burning incense sticks and washing their face and feet with holy water before going to bed. On the second day, people contribute charity to the less-fortunate and also pay homage to their ancestors. On the third day, people wash Buddha statues to wash away bad luck and dirt. They also wash their elders with perfumed water to show respect and bring longevity and good luck. During the holiday, people eat plenty and celebrate by playing games and dancing. A common activity at temples and households in the US is karaoke!
In Laotian culture, there are traditions involving water, sand, animals, flowers, and music. Water, like Thai and Cambodian culture, is used to wash homes, Buddha statues, and elders. Over the years, the tradition of throwing water has transformed into throwing shaving cream, white powder, or flour on each other. There are two ways to make merit: building sand mounds (called stupas), and setting animals like turtles, fish, birds, and crabs, free. During the day, people are at temple worshiping, and at night, people go to the temple for entertainment.