A seller prepares decorations for the Chinese New Year at a shop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Feb. 14, 2018. A majority of Cambodians have a tradition to celebrate Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, since many of them have Chinese ancestry and some believe that celebrating the festival will bring good luck to their businesses.(Xinhua/Sovannara)
by Nguon Sovan, Mao Pengfei
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The majority of the Cambodians celebrate Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, since many of them have Chinese ancestry and others believe that celebrating the festival will bring them good luck in the new year.
The 2018 Chinese Lunar New Year - the Year of the Dog - will fall on Feb. 16.
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen has said the Spring Festival has been gaining its popularity in the country from year to year.
"In the past, we did not see many people celebrating Chinese New Year, but today there are more and more," he wrote on his Facebook on Jan. 30. "When the nation has peace, people have full freedom to choose religious beliefs and to celebrate festivals according to their traditions."
The prime minister said Cambodia observes three New Year festivals in a year - the Universal New Year, the Chinese New Year and the Khmer (Cambodian) New Year.
Chinese New Year is not an official holiday in Cambodia, but the festival is broadly celebrated and some schools, private companies and institutions are closed on the occasion.
"It's pretty sure that over 60 percent of the Cambodian people celebrate Chinese New Year," Thai Norak Sathya, secretary of state and spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, told Xinhua.
"No matter whether they are Chinese-Khmers or pure Khmers, they take this occasion to enjoy together," he said.
The spokesman attributed the broad celebration of the festival to the country's respect for cultural diversity and freedom of belief, and close relations between the peoples of the two countries.
"Some believe that celebrating Chinese New Year will make them earn good incomes from businesses in the New Year, as others take this occasion to pray to their ancestors and to enjoy a family reunion," he said.
Sathya, who is also a Cambodian with Chinese descent, said days before the festival, people always clean and decorate their houses with red color paper-cuts, flowers, red lanterns and Chinese couplets.
He said during the festival, people make food offerings to their ancestors, and have lunch or dinner together with family members and friends.
The spokesman said the Chinese New year celebration has significantly contributed to further enhancing cultural relations and people-to-people bond between the two countries.
Nou Chansophy, director general of the Institute of Culture and Fine Arts of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the trend of Spring Festival celebration in Cambodia is increasing, and even pure Khmers also observe the festival.
"Now, although they are Khmers, they celebrate Chinese New Year because perhaps they think people with Chinese descent are good at doing businesses," he told Xinhua.
"It is believed that the bigger they make food offerings to their ancestors, the more incomes they will earn from their businesses in the New Year," he said.
Chansophy, who is also a Cambodian with Chinese ancestry, said Chinese New Year has been celebrated in Cambodia since ancient times, and it is the annual time to honor ancestors and to have a family reunion.
Chea Sekhamony, a vendor of Chinese New Year decorations and items for prayer at Chbar Ampov Market in Phnom Penh, said a few weeks before the festival, business is booming.
"It's a good time for business because there are a lot of customers these days," she told Xinhua. "For normal days, the sales are not good, but when Chinese New Year season comes, the sales are up sharply."
"We celebrate the festival in accordance with Chinese traditions. For children, when the Chinese New Year comes, they want to get red envelopes, and for adults, they pray for good business and good health," Sekhamony said.
Chhun Lang, a fruit seller at Chbar Ampov Market, said: "Sales are very good a few days leading up to the New Year festival, and sale volume increases several times on the occasion if compared to normal days."
33-year-old Sorn Horn, who also celebrates the Spring Festival, said Cambodian people are very happy to celebrate the festival since it is an opportunity for them to pay respect to their ancestors and to enjoy a family reunion.
"We celebrate the Chinese New Year for three days, and we make offerings of roasted piglets or chickens to our ancestors," she said.