Though many of Phnom Penh’s residents headed out of town to usher in the Chinese New Year over the weekend, plenty of people stuck around, dotting the streets with buckets of burning paper offerings and gathering around tables with their families to feast or play cards.
As soon as Pech Mongkul, a 38-year-old jeweler, woke up on Friday, he went to light candles in a small spirit house on his front porch.
Failure to do so, he said, could risk causing his ancestors to prevent success in the year ahead—the Year of the Rooster.
“If we do not hold it, we will feel bad because our grandparents will not give us happiness for the new year,” he said outside his home on Street 51.
Mr. Mongkul also hoped the rooster’s traits—seen in Chinese astrology as being vigilant and hardworking—would rub off on his business.
“This is the year of the rooster, so we expect that our business will be busy and more lucrative,” he said.
Celebrated by billions of people across the globe, the start of the Chinese Lunar Year is the biggest holiday in the world’s most populous nation. In Cambodia, where hundreds of thousands trace their roots back to China, many make offerings to their ancestors—ranging from coffee and cakes to fake money and houses, which go up in smoke.
“The Chinese New Year isn’t different to Pchum Ben,” Mr. Mongkul said of Cambodia’s most sacred holiday, when people flock to pagodas in their hometowns to pay their respects to deceased relatives while enjoying the time off with those still alive.
Ho Kouch, a car salesman, was equally hopeful the rooster’s characteristics would lead to an active year for his business.
“We hope that, because the rooster is a busy animal and is always finding food to live on, this will bring us a busy business. I hope sales of my cars will be busy,” Mr. Kouch said while standing on Street 130.
In order to improve his chances of having a lucky year ahead, he was planning on burning fake money and cardboard cars to appease those in the spirit world.
“When we burn cars for them, we hope that they will help us get lots of cars for running our business,” he said.