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Recognizing the Cambodian New Year in Long Beach

Recognizing the Cambodian New Year in Long Beach

Yesenia Renteria

The Cambodian New Year is a three-day celebration that starts on April 14th and ends on April 16th. It is one of Cambodia’s biggest events, marking the end of the harvest before the beginning of the rainy season.

The Khmer population has traditionally been made up largely of farmers, and they are at their busiest from November to March. In April, farmers get to enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rain begins. The new year is a time for Cambodians to take a rest from agricultural duties while also celebrating family members and paying homage to Buddha and Hindu deities.

Mural painted along Anaheim Street in Cambodia Town. Photo by Jeanette Lem.

Each day of the three-day holiday has designated activities: the first day, known as “Moha Sangkranta,” consists mostly of religious practices, in which people will clean their houses and display decorations to offer thanks to Buddha’s teachings. This day is also the welcoming of the New Angels that are said to come down to earth and protect the families during the new year.

The second day, known as “Virak Vanabat,” consists of more religious practices and honoring family members. Many Cambodians visit Buddhist pagodas and offer flowers, flowers, fruits, desserts, and drinks to the monks. It is also common for the younger generation to wash the hands and feet of their parents and elders to cleanse off the old year and show them love and care.

On day three, “Vearak Leong Sak,” Cambodians partake in festivities to celebrate. People take to the streets to enjoy parades, play games, and dance to welcome in the new year.

Mural painted along a business building along Anaheim Street in Cambodia Town. Photo by Jeanette Lem

The Cambodian New Year is a popular celebration in Long Beach, seeing as it is home to the largest Cambodian Community outside of Southeast Asia. For 15 years, the community has hosted a Cambodia Town Parade & Culture Festival that celebrates Khmer culture with cuisine, parades, and people dressed in colorful traditional Cambodian wear.

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Cambodia Town celebrated its 15th Annual Cambodia Town Parade & Culture Festival in Long Beach along Anaheim St. on Apr. 2, 2023. Photo by Howard Freshman. (Press-Telegram)

The celebration often shuts down Anaheim Street from Junipero Avenue to MacArthur Park, with festivities lasting for an entire afternoon. The theme of this year’s celebration, which took place on April 2, was ‘Stop Hate With Love,’ combatting the negative effects of recent hate crimes against the Asian community by celebrating the beauty of Cambodian culture.

During the celebration, the community partakes in religious practices—Buddhist monks, for example, will often perform a traditional blessing, with guests offering them gifts. There are also education booths that inform attendees about the rich history of Cambodian heritage.

Cambodia Town celebrated its 15th Annual Cambodia Town Parade & Culture Festival in Long Beach along Anaheim St. on Apr. 2, 2023. Photo by Howard Freshman. (Press-Telegram)

Recognition of Cambodian culture has grown in the city through the celebration of traditional holidays, the rising popularity of Cambodian food, and the large artworks that are displayed on buildings all over Cambodia Town. The increasing awareness of Cambodian culture signifies that the community will preserve and celebrate the heritage for future generations to come.

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