Thursday, April 12, 2012

cross culture confusion at festival time- Khmer New Year and Easter!

This is a big time of year in Cambodia!

Khmer new year traffic is dangerous, people travel and drink more than usual
A friend in Cambodia took this photo (below) the other day, Khmer new year celebrations at her church. In this game you have to blindfoldly smash a clay pot filled with candy/flour etc. (see my facebook wall for more!)

At this time of year in Cambodia there are people throwing water (day time) and playing games (night) in the streets.

Happy New Year face, as well as water fights people throw powder at each other to celebrate  at this time of year.april 2009

"What are you doing for Khmer New Year?" some Khmer friends asked Soeun on the phone the other day. He tried to explain he wasn't doing anything as we don't have that holiday here in Australia, its just a normal day. That must have seemed like a non answer to them, as they kept asking him the same question!

You've heard teachers are respected in Asia? This is the reality - the youth did this!

It reminded me of a conversation I had recently with an Aussie friend about Easter and Christmas in Cambodia. I was saying how I was enjoying being in Aust where churches have Easter services on Easter Sunday and services on Good Friday, and Christmas services on Dec 25th. As that's what I grew up with it feels nice and normal to do that!

 I think I confused my friend when I was trying to explain that doesn't happen in Cambodia. The dates that were so important to me growing up don't have the same meaning in my husband's country. And the holidays that were big for him growing up are a non event here- seemingly incomprehensible so his friends on the phone the other day!

Easter often usually fall near Khmer new year, when lots of people are away visiting family so churches I've been at don't usually have Easter on Easter. And of course December 25th isn't a public holiday so unless it falls on a Sunday a church wouldn't do anything that day. It seems like they usually pick a Sunday some time between Nov-Jan to have their Christmas on.

Party decorations in April at the Bible school
Bible school hall set up for KNY party, April 2010
The weather is really hot and humid in April in Cambodia, more so than usual. 

We usually travel to visit relatives in the province, as do most people. It only took us 3 hours one way but we usually saw about 3 traffic accidents each time. We also saw lots of tables set out to welcome the new year angel. (see photo below) 
A table set up to welcome the new year angel, households all across Cambodia have these set up in mid April, we see so many as we travel to visit family in the province. 

Each year the old angel leaves and the angel that will look after Cambodia for the coming year arrives. You can see it on TV- the first time I experienced this I was totally weirded out as you can read here. 

(actually my 1st KNY i was in the city and didn't notice, the weirded blog post is from my 2nd one when i was at in laws house, april 2007)

Each year the angel comes at a particular time some time around mid April. Once we were woken up in the night by fireworks cos the arrival time was around 1am. This year I've heard its 7.11pm on Friday 13th
Fish and mango lunch

As I enjoy the cold weather and eating hot cross buns, I'm remembering that at this time of year I'm normally eating mangos and feeling very hot and tired!

April is unbearably hot, redeeming feature of this season- cheap and plentiful mangos, they cost  25-50 US cents each  
When Soeun was young he lived in a village. All of April was one big holiday. They finished one rice cycle in March and they didn't start the next one until May. It was so hot they rested during the day and played games at night. But for city dwellers these days it is a three day public holiday.

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