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The Cambodians are indeed one of the most festive cultures on the travelling sphere. Public holidays. Public shmolidays.
National holidays are much fewer and further between in other corners of the world. However, in Cambodia, no entity is being stingy when it comes to public holidays on the festival calendar.
What’s that? Over two dozen a year…
You heard us right, over two dozen public holidays a YEAR in Cambodia. For all of you rat racers, sitting in cubicle number 351, next to sweaty Malcolm, this goes out to you, and almost matches your annual holiday allowance. Time for a change of lifestyle buddies.
Up for a flutter?
With this many public holidays a year, bookies are giving extremely good odds on at least one of these holidays being an extremely touching and memorable fiesta.
Cambodian Festival

Cambodian Festival Calendar – Unlock The Next Level Of Culture

Disclaimer: It’s highly unlikely that any of these festivals will contain vodka beach parties.
However, if you’re wanting to adorn a dodgy hairdo and get crunk on the beach, there’s still plenty of time for that. Be our guests.
Festival. A glorious word. You’re probably thinking of striding through fields of tents in wavey garments with a two litre bottle of vodka squash and a bag of pharmaceuticals on your way to watch your favourite bands.
Think again…
Those types of music festivals in Cambodia are yet to be introduced (cue incredible business opportunity). Nonetheless, the Cambodian festival calendar is packed full of cultural treats…
Big up Buddha…
The Cambodian festival calendar draws many parallels with the Theravada Buddhist ritual. Here, the holidays and festivals that are most important to the local culture are Buddhist through and through. Thoroughly Buddhist.
Cemented in the culture…
Cambodians are some of the loveliest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. They are welcoming, humble, friendly, and incredibly righteous.
That’s what it’s all about…
Cambodian festivals are a joy for the lucky ones that get to behold them. These charismatic celebrations are centred around religion, tradition, family, and of course, the irrepressible fun-loving nature of the Cambodian people.
So, which is the best Cambodian festival for you?
Good question.
Our festival fiends are stepping into the cultural portal and are unlocking not one, but five Cambodian festivals that you can’t be missing out on during your time in Cambodia.
It’s time to unlock the next level of Cambodian culture…
Festivals in Cambodia 2017

Cambodian Festival Calendar – 5 Festivals You Can’t Miss Out On

Warning – It’s about to get a bit Narnia up in here…
In order to fully experience these festivals, we are going to be transporting you through the cultural portal and straight into the festival action. A live experience. Rick and Morty eat your shwifty hearts out.
Now, prepare yourselves…
Stand up. Walk over to your wardrobe. Gently open the wardrobe doors…
Good job.
Now. Lightly jog past your array of clothes. Straight through the backboard of your wardrobe. And you’re in the Cambodian festival universe.
1… 2… 3… GO…
Cambodian Festival
We’re assuming all of you are still sat in your chairs. An unsurprisingly wise move from the lot of you.
Anyone of you take on the wardrobe?
Hands up…
Firstly, 10 out of 10 for effort.
Although there’s bad news, teleporting is something that is still on planet earth’s lengthy to-do list…
Neatly poised a good 214 places behind the likes of getting public transport to finally run on time, and ridding the world of politicians. Sit tight though, we’ll be faxing you the memo once the wardrobe portal opens for once and for all.
We’ve massively digressed from the Cambodian festival extravaganza…
To keep things above board and squeaky clean, we’ll now be running you through the Cambodian festival calendar chronologically.
Make sense?
Right, so we’ve got five awesome festivals for you, which are all reasonably evenly spread across the year and are being laid out to you in pristine chronological order. However, the big question still remains…
Will the travel trail land you at one these gems?
We shall see.

Cambodian Festival Calendar – Chinese New Year (Jan)

Okay, so we are straight out of the blocks and are already slightly straying from the Cambodian festival portal with this one. It’s all for good measure though.
To explain…
There is a very large population of Chinese descendants and Vietnamese immigrants in Cambodia. All of whom are ready to get down and rock out in a big way for Chinese New Year.
It’s not an official holiday for Cambodians, but it’s still one of the most celebrated events of the year.
So… Where is this party taking place?
Given that most of the Chinese population in Cambodia are big dogs in the business world, there will undoubtedly be festivities going down in the business hub of Phnom Penh
How long do the festivities last? Good question.
Well, the Chinese New Year is celebrated across 12 days, all of which culminate in one hell of a New Year’s party.
Pack your dancing socks…
In the lead up to New Year, the streets will be buzzing. Families will be dressing their houses up to the nines with beautiful ‘good wish’ red banners and offerings. The famous dragon dancers will be grooving on the streets for 12 days straight, and then everyone will gather at the pagodas for the final offering when the clock strikes midnight on the 12th day.
We’ve been on Wat watch. And…
Wats are Cambodian temples. Wat Phnom tends to be the buzziest of the pagodas on New Year’s, so start planning to make your way down there to witness the glorious scenes.
This next one is a real Night-Khmer…

Cambodian Festival Calendar – Khmer New Year (Apr)

Cambodian Festival - Khmer Festival List

Image courtesy of about asia travel

Just a few months after Chinese New Year…
Lo and behold…
It’s the famous Khmer New Year. This Cambodian festival has been going on for yonks, one of the most widely celebrated festivals around the country since the Angkorian era.
For families and friends all over the country, this is the to time to mark the end of the old, and welcome the start of a new era with open arms, heads, shoulders, knees. And toes.
It is an incredibly spiritual 3 days for the Cambodian people, who’ll usually be returning home to their families for generous feasts, loud music, and endless small talk into the early hours of the morning.
Beware the ghost towns…
During this time, it’s likely that the big cities will get deserted as most people will be cruising back towards their hometown in the provinces.
Why all this hassle?
This time of year is truly special, and if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the middle of a traditional Khmer New Year party, it’s something that will be staying with you for a lifetime.
One more thing…
If you happen to find yourself near Siem Reap at this time of year, there’s usually an incredible celebration in front of Angkor Wat on the third day of the Khmer New Year festivities. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Cambodian Festival Calendar – Royal Ploughing Day (May)

Cambodian festival - festivals in Cambodia 2017

Image courtesy of sokha hotels

Rice, rice, baby…
The Royal Ploughing Day is celebrated to mark the start of the rice-growing season and usually takes place in May.
May it is…
Royal Ploughing Day. There are some deeply rooted traditional rituals that are undertaken at this ceremony. The Cambodian farmers’ union uses the results to finally forecast the success or failure of this year’s harvest.
Farmers the world over would be forgiven for ‘soiling’ themselves under this pressure…
Unsurprisingly, it’s squeaky bum time for the Cambodian farmers. They’ll of course be waiting on tenterhooks, as will we all, for the results to come in…
First, the sacred oxen must proudly plow the ceremonial row of land. The stage is thus set…
Royal Ploughing Day comes with a brief glimpse into the agricultural future. This critical foresight hinges on two things…
The willingness of the sacred oxen to eat the blessed plate of food (from a buffet of plates) and whether the ox will drink a glass of wine,,,
To drink or not to drink? To eat or not to eat? Rarely questions we expected to be asking an ox…
Statistics on the reliability of these predictions are yet to be published. Regardless, the emotional attachment that the Cambodian people have to these events is a testament to the experience.

Cambodian Festival Calendar – Pchum Ben (Sep)

Cambodian festival - Pchum Ben

Image courtesy of jwoc

Of the entire Cambodian festival calendar, Pchum Ben is certainly the most culturally and religiously significant event. Pchum Ben is also known as the festival of souls which focuses on blessing souls of ancestors, relatives, and friends who have passed away.
The festival runs for 15 days from the end of September until mid-October, and is widely believed to connect partakers with the spirits of their departed ancestors, who may have returned to visit briefly.
The most prominent day of Pchum Ben is the 15th and final day of the celebration, when observant Khmers will visit at least 7 pagodas to make offerings. Candles are also lit to guide the spirits towards their generous offerings.
Having circumnavigated the spiritual world on an empty stomach for 364 days, the spirits are probably starving as well.
The Cambodians are one step ahead…
Rice-sesame seeds are also laid out on the ground in front of the pagodas, so that ancestral spirits can chow down before watching over their descendants for another 364 days.

Cambodian Festival Calendar – Cambodian Water Festival (Oct / Nov)

Cambodian Water Festival

Image courtesy of global children cambodia

The Cambodian Water Festival (also known as Bonn Om Touk) is the most extravagant festival of the year. It’s a 3 day affair that sees millions of people from all walks of life flocking to the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers.
Now, why would they do that?
Forget Henley regatta, a real boat race is going down here. Hundreds of brightly coloured boats take to the river, each fitted with over 50 paddlers ready to row their little hearts out.
We’ve never witnessed anything like it. A true spectacle.
An event steeped in history…
The Cambodian Water Festival and boat race dates all the way back to the ancient Khmer empire.
Once the racing is complete and the winning boat has been crowned victors, the evening is lit up by brightly coloured boats and firework shows. Some truly mesmerising scenes.
The Cambodian Water Festival marks the changing flow of the Tonle Sap, and is also a thanksgiving to the Mekong River for the buffet of fertile land and fish it has provided. Paddle up.

More Articles On The Cambodian Festival Calendar

If you’re looking for anymore tips on how to take your cultural festivities to the next level, these articles have all got your back…


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Mad Monkey Hostels operates in the following Cambodian locations: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampot, Koh Rong Samloem

About the Author

Mad Monkey is Southeast Asia’s leading hostel operator — born in Cambodia with more properties in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Laos, and the Philippines. We pride ourselves in creating meaningful and sustainable travel experiences for our guests, whilst promoting socially responsible tourism.