Chinese New Year, or Chinese Spring Festival as some call it, is not one of the official holidays in Cambodia but it is still one of the most celebrated festivals during the year. The Festival is mostly celebrated by Cambodians with Chinese descent and ethnic Vietnamese but many Cambodians and other foreigners living in Cambodia will also join some parts of the celebration even though they do not have any relation to it.
In 2014 the New Chinese Year will start on the 31st of January and will be celebrated for 12 days ending with Lantern Festival. This year the year of the Snake will come to an end and the Year of the Horse begins.
Many of the Cambodians with Chinese descent work with commerce, having their own shop or stand at the market, so during Chinese New Year you will notices that a lot of shops and businesses in Phnom Penh are closed during this period.
The days before the New Year people are busy with cleaning and decorating their house with “Good Wish” banners in red, hanging couplets on their walls and preparing festive displays for offerings. They are also preparing food and buying presents and new clothes.
The Chinese New Year is a holiday that is celebrated with family so some people will return to their birth place in the country side of Cambodia to celebrate with their families, grandparents or friends. But you will still be able to spot quite a few traditional “Lion and Dragon dancers” performing on the streets in front of someone’s house or businesses across Phnom Penh for several days around New Years Day. And hear people say “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” to each other, which means “Happy New Year” in Chinese.
On the night of New Year’s Eve people gather at the pagodas to make offerings. Wat Phnom is one of the busiest and most popular pagoda in Phnom Penh, especially on New Years Eve at midnight.
People flock to buy yellow-flowering bushes called Angkea Sel. They believe that if the trees blossom during the first three days of the New Year, the year will bring good fortune.