Cambodian Water Festival in Phnom Penh


Cambodia’s state religion is Buddhism. The Ancestors' Day, the Water Festival and the New Year are the three most important festivals in Cambodia. As one of Cambodia's most important traditional festivals, the Water Festival, is usually held in October or November each year. It marks the end of the rainy season and the arrival of the fishing season. Some important cities in Cambodia, such as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang, hold celebrations during Cambodian Water festival. The celebration in Phnom Penh is the largest.


When is Cambodia Water Festival?

This festival is held on December 15th of Buddhist calendar each year, usually in October or November every year, and the Cambodians will have a three-day holiday.


Why celebrate Cambodia Water Festival?

In Cambodian culture, water symbolizes life and fertility. With the help of the Water Festival, people wish the abundance of land and the harvest of agriculture. In some areas, ceremonies are held to send water gods and earth gods, and thank God for giving water and land.

In Cambodia, there is Rainy season and dry season. After the annual “Water Festival”, the dry season is coming. Tonlé Sap Lakes water begins to flow back into the Mekong River, and then flow to the sea. Tonlé Sap Lake enters the fishing season and people begins to harvest rice.


How to celebrate the Cambodia Water festival in Phnom Penh?


During the festival, people bring their family to the Phnom Penh to watch the dragon boat race, eat flat rice, worship of the moon, let ship decorated with lights float down the river and light fireworks to celebrate Water Festival.


  • First day: Hold the opening ceremony of the Dragon Boat Race and organize the preliminary round.

In the large dragon boat race in Phnom Penh, many foreigners will also participate in the team.

The origin of the dragon boat race in Water Festival:

History shows that in ancient times, Khmer kings fought against enemies through waterways. Statues about the Battle of the Waters can be seen on the walls of the Bayon and the Banteay Samre. At that time, “Dragon Boat Race” in the Water Festival was used as a proof of military training acceptance. Every year, Khmer King holds a water ceremony and selects champion ships to show military strength. In this way, the dragon boat race in the Water Festival becomes a custom passed down.


  • Second day: Worship of the moon.

The activity called “Worship of the moon”is held at night. Cambodians will eat a glutinous rice with bananas or coconut milk and express gratitude to the moon.

In addition, the river lantern is an entertaining activity attended by the people. People will carefully prepare a variety of river lights, ignite the candles in the river lights, let the river lights float down the river. The farther the river light floats, the better the luck.

The light boat is an activity held every day at 6 pm, and the government department will put a light boat. A variety of chic light boats float on the calm river in Phnom Penh. Most people will come here to watch the night scenes and take pictures.


  • Third day: Hold final of dragon boat race and set off fireworks 

The third day is the climax of the water festival, and the dragon boat race finals and awards ceremony will be held during the day. In the evening, the light boat and the worship of the moon will be held and the fireworks will be set off. When the fireworks bloom in the sky marks the end of the day's activities.


Things that can't be done during Water Festival:


  • Cambodian monks can't participate in the Water Festival. They can only watch TV or live broadcasts in temples to watch the water festival celebrations. Traveling monks can't watch intimate behaviors such as kissing couples. If they are found, they will be instructed to return to the temple.
  • During the three-day holiday of the Water Festival, too many people will flood into important cities such as Phnom Penh. The porn industry will be particularly hot. If you want to do it, please take safety measures.


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