Goodbye to the Goat

For more than a week, Cambodians have been making preparations for Khmer New Year, which starts Tues­day; leaving the Year of the Goat behind in anticipation of the Year of the Monkey.

Rituals for cleaning homes, offices and pagodas to welcome the Devada, or deity, of the New Year, have been ac­com­panied by a series of customs—from consulting fortunetellers to playing traditional games.

People symbolically shed off the old year, with new hair styles and clothes.

“This is a good time for me,” said Ouk Bunthoeun, a clothes seller at Sorya Shopping Center. “People are rushing to buy for New Year. We sell 20 to 30 sets of clothes every day. Two months ago, we sold maybe five a day,” he said.

Women run to beauty salons for hair and facial makeovers. “If I am beautiful, my husband will not go to another woman,” said 45-year-old Tea Sophon, laughing shyly.

Water is sprinkled during Khmer New Year ceremonies, especially on the third day; but throwing bags of water on passing motorists has only recently become a “traditional” practice.


Driving Up Prices

At the Phsar Thmei taxi station, regular drivers to Koh Kong and Siem Reap are turning sour, unlike drivers to other destinations who expect to make a fortune during the holidays.

“It is so different compared to a couple years ago,” said Kaing Pov, a taxi driver on the Phnom Penh-to-Koh Kong route.

In the past, the mass exodus of people going to the provinces for the holidays meant higher rates and more customers for drivers.

Now, besides having to compete with the once-a-year drivers flocking to the city in hopes of quick profit, they have to cope with bus companies. Kaing

Pov has even had to cut his price from about $7.50 to approximately $6.25, he said.

Soth Khom, who drives from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, said he slashed his prices from 25,000 riel (about $6.25) to 8,000 to 16,000 riel (around $2 to $4) to compete with buses that charge $4. This, plus the gasoline price increase and police officers demanding large sums of money at checkpoints and stations, does not bode well for taxi drivers in the coming year, Soth Khom said.


Home is Where the Luck Is

A week ago, Ton Sovann invited Buddhist monks to hold a ceremony at his home to bring his family good luck and happiness for the new year.

Monks are asked to houses as well as offices. This year’s Devada, or deity, for the Year of the Monkey is known to “drink blood,” said Non Nget, Phnom Penh chief monk of the Moha­nikaya Sect. Seven yearly Devadas alternate in a seven-year cycle.

This year’s Devada Reaj Sa Devi, the third daughter of the Buddhist deity Kabil Mohaprom, is an ill omen for individuals and the country, a sign that blood will be drawn in crimes and diseases, said Non Nget.

But as long as people behave well each day, they don’t have to be overly concerned, he said. After all, mortality is part of life, said Non Nget.

“It is normal for people to be born, become old and sick, and to die. Khmer New Year is a time to pay re­spect to our ancestors who passed on their knowledge to us, and to our deceased parents who gave us life,” said Non Nget. So let’s celebrate life and em­brace our mortality, he said.


Sweeping Out the Old Year

Hun Soeun, left, is part of a team of workers hired to paint the fence in front of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports before Khmer New Year. This pays little, but it will be welcome for holidays, said the 21-year-old worker.

Cambodians have been on a cleaning spree for more than a week to remove the dirt accumulated over the past year and to welcome the new year, which will start at 5 pm Tuesday.

At Wat Botum, boys living at the pagoda, young monks and the nuns do the cleaning, said Mok Long Dy, a 21-year-old monk. Among other chores, they removed one year of tamarind that  accumulated on the roof of buildings, he said.

At the Ministry of Economy and Finance, offices were cleaned, the fence decorated and Cambodian flags raised before the annual Buddhist ceremony held on April 1 with the participation of monks and traditional musicians, said Minister Keat Chhon.

For this Year of the Monkey, the minister predicts a gross domestic product of up to 5.8 percent; an inflation rate of less than

3 percent; and during the next three months, an increase in tax revenue, but a drought that may affect rice farmers.


Related Stories

Latest News