Khmer New Year begins on April 13th or 14th depending on the lunar calendar and lasts for 3 days. Everyday people visit temples to get blessings from the monks and priests. They build a sand hill in the temple grounds and decorate it with five religious flags one on the top and four around the sides, representing the temples of Buddha’s key disciples.
People of Cambodia follow a tradition of sprinkling holy water on friends’ faces in the morning, the chest at noon and on the feet in the evening. In recent times, people also pour colored water on their friends and relatives. This colored water is said to symbolize the different colours of life in the future.
The first day of the New Year celebrations is called Moha Sangkran. It is the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new one. People dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at temples and shrines across the country. Family members pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha's teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before his image. It is believed that on this day Buddha’s angels come to earth to take care of creation. To welcome these holy angels, people clean and light up their houses. Members of the family place an idol of the Buddha on an altar with flowers, candles, incense sticks, a bowl of scented water, food and drinks and is sculptured out banana leaves.
The second day of New Year celebrations is called Wanabot, meaning “to offer gifts to the parents, grandparents and elders.” People contribute charity to the less fortunate, help the poor, servants, homeless people, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery.
On the third day of New Year celebrations people wash all the images of Buddha with scented water. It is said this ensures good rains all year long. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future. Children pay respect to their elders by washing their feet and get blessings in return. This ceremony of giving a special bath to Buddha statues, monks and elders is called Pithi Srang Preah.