By Sam Le
Northwest Asian Weekly
With over 500 attendees, the 2019 White Center Khmer New Year Celebration hosted by the Cambodian Cultural Alliance of Washington (CCAW) celebrated its annual street festival on April 27.
The program included artist and musician Davey Tsunami, cultural performances, and Cambodian cuisine. In order to engage all communities, admission to the event was free and community resources, such as the Cambodian Health Board, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and White Center Community Development Association, were in attendance.
Sharing roots in both Chinese and Indian cultural influence, Khmer/Cambodian New Year is a three-day celebration by the people of Cambodia. The celebration also coincides with traditional New Year celebration of the Nepalese, Burmese, Lao, and Thai communities. Both the significance of the Lunar calendar and the rainy season are celebrated for good fortune and a bountiful harvest.
In the traditional manner, families participate in the practice of gift giving and paying homage to Buddha over the three celebratory days. The first day emphasized on offering gifts of food and fruits to gods, spirits, and ancestors for blessings and protection.
The second day highlights the presentation of gifts to elders, relatives, and other family members. Additionally, families have gifted to charities and other families less fortunate through the donation of food, gifts, and money. The spirit of giving strengthens the relationships within the families and among the communities.
The third day focuses on cleaning statues of Buddha, a practice representing the washing away of negativity and bringing in a new forms of positivity.
New Year celebrations in all communities hold significance of a fresh start and celebrating the prior year, and the Khmer/Cambodian New Year does as well, but includes the blending of Indian and Chinese traditions, and the unique cultural traditions of the Cambodian history.