Rich in culture, Cambodia has a great number of festivals, time of rejoicing for the whole nation. Most of these traditional festivals are attached to Buddhism or Hinduism. Here is the list of most significant festival in Cambodia calendar.
Bonn Chaul Chhnam (14-16 April)
Like Thai and Laotian people, the Khmer celebrate their New Year Festival during Mid April in the end of the harvest season. Cambodian people often clean and decorate their houses brilliantly with colorful ornaments and streets are lighted. Most popular activity is visiting temples to make offerings and pray for good luck and success. They also throw water at each other as a way of saying “Happy new year!”
Bonn Chrat Preah Nongkol - Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Late May, one day
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony dates back to the times when the reigning king traced the first furrows in the capital's sacred rice field, thus inaugurating the ploughing season. Today, the ritual is performed at the start of the rainy season in late May each year, with representatives of the king taking the role of King Meakh, who leads the yoke and plough, and Queen Mehour, who sows the seeds. After circling the field three times, the procession stops at a shrine where Brahmins invoke the protection of the gods. Sacred cows are then brought to eat from seven silver trays containing such things as rice, corn, beans, sesame seeds, grass, water and wine, and predictions are made for the coming year based upon what they select. The harvest will be good if they choose the cereals, rain will be abundant if they drink water, but trouble is feared if they eat herbs or drink alcohol.
Bonn Dak Ben and Bonn Pchum Ben - Spirit Offering Festival
September-October, 15 days
Running for 15 days, this festival is dedicated to blessing the spirits of the dead, and is one of the most culturally significant events in Cambodia. Each household visits its local wat and offers food to the monks for their assistance in blessing the souls of late ancestors, relatives and friends. Pagodas are crowded with people taking their turn to make offerings, with many staying behind to listen to Buddhist sermons.
Bonn Kathen - End of Buddhist Lent
Bonn Om Touk - Water Festival
Mid November, three days
The Tonle Sap River is the only waterway in the world which flows in opposite directions at different times of the year. For most of the year the river flows out from the lake into the Mekong. However, during the rainy season from about June to October the Mekong rises, causing the Tonle Sap River to reverse its direction and the lake to swell to more than twice its regular size. At the end of the rainy season, when the water level of the Mekong drops again, the current reverts and flows back into the Mekong. This unique natural phenomenon is celebrated with three days of boat races, fairs, festivals, shows, parades, fireworks, music and dancing.
Angkor festival – November or December
This is one of the most impressive festive events of Cambodia, held right at the ground of Angkor Wat. This festival draws people from all over Cambodia to Seem Reap to see firework display and the art shows depicting glorious history of Angkor Kingdom. Should you wish to watch a traditional performance telling the legend and odyssey Ramayana, this is definitely a not to miss opportunity.