Folk artists perform the lion dance to mark the forthcoming Lunar New Year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Feb. 1, 2019. Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen has sent greetings and best wishes to the people, as the country is gearing up for the celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival. (Xinhua/Sovannara)
by Sovan Nguon, Mao Pengfei
PHNOM PENH, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen has sent greetings and best wishes to the people, as the country is gearing up for the celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival.
The 2019 Chinese New Year, the Year of Pig, will fall on Feb. 5.
"I and my wife would like to bless the compatriots with good luck and fortune on the occasion of the upcoming Chinese New Year," the Cambodian prime minister said in a Facebook post on Thursday.
He said Cambodia celebrates three new year festivals a year, namely the Universal New Year, the Chinese New Year and the Cambodian New Year.
"Nowadays, there are more and more Cambodians of Chinese descent," Hun Sen said. "When the nation has full peace, people have freedom to choose religious beliefs and to celebrate festivals according to their traditions."
Though it is not a public holiday in Cambodia, the Spring Festival is broadly celebrated, as schools, companies and institutions are closed on the occasion.
Thai Norak Sathya, a secretary of state and spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said the Chinese New Year has been observed in the kingdom since ancient times and its popularity has grown stronger from year to year.
"Since I was born, I saw my parents and neighbors celebrating the Chinese New Year every year," the 65-year-old spokesman told Xinhua in a recent interview.
"There are more and more people celebrating the festival from one year to another because there is growing relationship between Cambodians and Chinese descents through marriages and friendship," he said.
Sathya said the Chinese New Year was almost as popular as the Cambodian New Year, which is usually celebrated in April.
"During the Chinese New Year, Phnom Penh City is as quiet as the Cambodian New Year, so I think the celebration of Chinese New Year is almost the same as that of Cambodian New Year," he said.
He explained that on these occasions, Phnom Penh dwellers leave the city for a visit to their hometowns for a family reunion.
The spokesman said some pure Cambodians also celebrate the Chinese New Year because they believe that the celebration would bring them good luck and fortune throughout the new year.
"They have conviction that praying to their ancestors on the occasion will help them make good earnings in the new year," he said.
Days ahead of the festival, shops selling Chinese New Year decorative items and praying stuff attracted crowds of customers.
"Sales are very good during the Chinese New Year season if compared to normal days," Hem Ros, a vendor at Phsar Dermkor market in Phnom Penh, told Xinhua.
"I sell all kinds of Chinese New Year decorative items and praying stuff such as joss stick pots, joss paper, red lanterns, red envelopes, red color paper-cuts, and Chinese couplets, among others," the 63-year-old vendor said.
Meas Fanin, 62, who is a Cambodian of Chinese descent, said she observes the festival every year because it is an occasion to honor her ancestors.
"I'm a Cambodian with Chinese ancestry, and the celebration of Chinese New Year is my tradition. I always celebrate it every year, it is a very important festival that I cannot miss," she told Xinhua while buying Chinese New Year decorations at the Phsar Dermkor market.
"During the festival, we pray to our ancestors...and ask their souls to take care of us and to help us make good earnings in businesses," she said.