After I launched Refugee Kitchen, I said I would do only Khmer recipes for the month of April in celebration of Cambodian New Year. New Year has just passed and I have 2 weeks left in April to get a few more recipes in, this by no means I will stop Khmer recipes on this blog, it just means I can get back to blogging whatever it is I’d like!

My family and I had such an amazing time at Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in Stockton CA, we visit every year as a family to pay homage, receive blessings, pray and to welcome the new year together. The temple grounds are absolutely beautiful and grows every year I visit, it hosts the biggest Cambodian New Year celebration in Northern California. All the statues are depictions of Buddha’s life and journey to enlightenment as well as stories from the Buddhist faith. The entire temple is run, cared for and managed by residing Monks and volunteers and is opened year round to visitors. The statues themselves were also built, carved and painted by Monks and volunteers, I tell you, nothing is more amazing than to see them in person and understand the intricate art and passion behind each curved stone and gilded paint stroke.

New Year was observed on the 14th, 15th and 16th of this year, falling mid-week a lot of families wait to celebrate on the weekends. Decked out in colorful outfits and carrying ornate tiered silver lunch pails full of rice, savories and sweet treats, we arrive bright and early to first pay homage to the Monks and receive our New Year blessings. We pray for a good year full of health, clarity and the ability to fulfill our true purpose while on this earth. Every family brings foods and rice to pay alms to the Monks. Monks survive on alms solely, food and rice is voluntarily given, they break their fast at noon and eat once a day. Afterwards, my family and I only have one thing on our minds, FOOD! We visit the stalls full of yummy foods, jewelry, clothes and great causes to support. There’s traditional games, dances and performances in the main square during the afternoon and well into the evening. During New Years I have one itinerary, pray, eat, dance and eat some more, every year I do the same thing and I spend the rest of the year looking forward to doing it again!

We visited on the last day of New Year so the crowd was on the lighter side, about 500-700 people, much less than the 1000+ crowd I’m used to. A brief break down of what each of the three day symbolizes is this:

Day 1: Maha Songkran
Maha Songkran, derived from Sanskrit Maha Sankranti, is the name of the first day of the new year celebration. It is the ending of the year and the beginning of a new one. People dress up and light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines, where the members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha’s teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before his image. For good luck people wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before they go to bed.

Day 2: Virak Wanabat
Virak Wanabat is the name of the second day of the new year celebration. People contribute charity to the less fortunate by helping the poor, servants, homeless, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery.

Day 3: Virak loeurng Sak
T’ngai Leang Saka is the name of the third day of the new year celebration. Buddhists cleanse the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images is the symbol that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. 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.

Ready for the pictures!? I didn’t get a chance to take as much as I’d like, I was too busy enjoying the sights and sounds as well as eating nearly all day long! It was a great New Year, and only 364 days until the next one!

All photos link to the original on my Flickr, please feel free to click for a larger view!

Buddhist Blessings being offered

Receiving Blessings

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Bok La Hong or Papaya Salad being freshly made
Cambodian New Year 2014

Making Fresh Bok La Hong

I dig watching these guys play! Such skills!

Super Skills

Games being played in the main square

Games During New Years

Of course another karaoke video, I had so much dancing this past weekend to traditional music.  I do, however, realize how old I’ve gotten, I can get down with the best of them, I just can’t always get back up! TeeHee!

WEEK 17 of 52…CHECK!

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