When you are booking your Cambodian holiday, it is worth knowing what the important festivals and events throughout the year are.
Some people may wish to plan their journey around one of these festivals, while others may wish to avoid travelling during these busier times.
Chinese New Year
Between the middle of January and the middle of February it is the Chinese New Year, called by the Cambodian people as “Chaul Chnam Chen”. The shops of Phnom Penh essentially run by Chinese people close and the Vietnamese people go back to Vietnam for a few days for their “Tet” celebration. Dance of the dragon takes place in the streets of Phnom Penh, and people make offerings to the divinities.
Date: January 28
At the end of February takes place a race of Cyclo-pousse in Phnom Penh, in the district of the Royal Palace. The first rally took place in 1993 on the initiative of Serge Chevalier (a French baker) and the Ministry of the Tourism.
Cambodia International Film festival (CIFF)
Each year, the CIFF takes place in Phnom Penh. This festival was organized since 2010 by Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center and the Cambodia Film Commission. It is the most significant professional film event in Cambodia. The program not only highlights movies made in or about Cambodia, but also a selection of films from the world. The event lasts for one week, and the movies are screened in the best cinemas of Phnom Penh. The entrance is free to everyone to access to this cultural event.
Date: from March 4 to 9
Khmer New Year
In the middle of April it is the Khmer New Year (Chaul Chnam Khmer). The event is the most important of the calendar — it marks the end of the dry season. The festivities last 3 days, during which the Cambodian people go to the temples to make offerings, exchange presents and organize copious meals. The atmosphere is joyful, in particular, in the provinces where the villagers are engaged in battles of water and numerous games in the street. A lot of Cambodian people come in large numbers to Angkor Wat, so it is not the best period to visit the temples.
Date: from April 13 to 16
At the beginning of May, there is the celebration of the Buddha (Visakha Puja). People celebrate his birth, his illumination and his death in temples. The eighth day of the fourth lunar month is a breathtaking time to visit Angkor Wat, as the monks make processions with torches through this ancient wonder of the world.
Date: May 3
The 9th of May represents the memorial day for the genocide. A tribute is organized on this day for the numerous victims of the Khmer Rouge. The ceremony that is the most touching takes place at the memorial service at Choeung Ek, known also as the “Genocide Museum”.
Date: May 9
In May, there is also the ceremony of the sacred furrow. Conducted by the royal family, this ceremony is a ritual which marks the beginning of the rice plantation. It takes place in front of the National Museum, in Phnom Penh. According to the tradition, the royal cattle would foresee if the rice crop was going to be good or bad.
On the 14th of May, Cambodia celebrates the birthday of their King, Norodom Sihamoni. A flame is lit under the Independence Monument.
Date: May 14
Phnom Penh International Half Marathon
This event takes place every year in the month of June in Phnom Penh. This running is organized by Cambodian Events Organizer since 2011. It is celebrating the birthday of Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. It supports also Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital, and for the green city to improve human well-being and friendship. The event offers three categories of running: The 3km Fun Run, the 10km Road Race and the Half Marathon distance of 21. 5km. All participants are welcome, and have to register online at least 10 days beforehand.
Date: June 18
Indian Cinema Festival
This event is organized by the Indian Embassy, and supported by Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, the Cambodia Film Commission and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia. The festival lasts one week, and presents Indian films including classics, blockbusters and awarded winning films, screened in the prestigious Chaktomuk Theater. The overall selection is very audience-friendly with some-family oriented films as well as typical and non-typical Bollywood comedy actions, musicals and dramas. The entrance is free for everyone. You can check the dates on the Indian Embassy Website.
Celebration of the Ancestors
During this celebration, called “Phchoum Ben”, Cambodian people pay tribute to the spirits of their ancestors who have passed on. They make offerings in the temples (flowers, money, altar candles and incense) and also drinks and food are given to the monks. The celebration lasts numerous days, during which the Buddhist believers have to visit seven temples. The belief says that if the spirits don’t see their family make offerings in a temple, the spirit will come to bother the family during the year.
Date: from September 19 to 21
The Water Festival (Bom Om Tuk)
This celebration marks the inversion of the Tonlé Sap, a remarkable natural phenomenon where the flow of the river changes direction. It is one of the most important events of the calendar. Boat races take place on the Tonlé Sap and the river in Siem Reap. Each boat is decorated and driven by 40 rowers. Up to two million people come into the capital to attend this event. Unfortunately, in 2010, a crash on the bridge linking Koh Pich and the city resulted in the death of 350 people.
Date: from November 2 to 4
Angkor Wat International Half Marathon
This event has run since 1995 and supports the victims of the anti-personnel mines, offering them prosthesis. People can choose between a half marathon (21km), a shorter race of 10km, or a running of 5km, just for women.
Date: December 3