Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Kung Hei Fat Choy

Who'd have ever thought that Chinese New Year would be a big deal in Cambodia?  Surpirsingly, Khmer-Chen, Chinese-Cambodians, (Cambodians of Chinese descent) are quite prevalent here, and so Chinese New Year is quite a festive occasion for these families. 

In the few weeks preceeding the holiday, many market stalls fill with Chinese New Year decorations and businesses hang out fancy red Chinese lanterns and banners.

On New Years Eve, families prepare for the New Year by cleaning out their house, and making offerings. I saw many children dressed in new red Chinese outfits. 
Very pretty! 

Out in front of their homes & businesses, families were burning fake money, fake gold, fake cars, TV's, etc.  By burning these items, they believe that their ancestors will receive these items in the next life. 

Fake gold going up in smoke, and rising to heaven to help out the ancestors

These ancestors are getting a couple of Lexus SUV's!
...And a bag of gold!
I guess it pays to have rich relatives

Larger than normal offerings of food, drink and incense are placed at home altars, with the hope and prayer that prosperity will continue throughout the year.  I noticed many small offerings of food and rice, placed on the sidewalk, or by the front entrance, and I believe this is to appease the mythical beast called Nian, who comes on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, believers put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year, so that the Nian will eat the food, and not attack any more people. . 

Food for Nian, the mean kid-eating beast

The owner of MotherHome Guesthouse celebrates Chinese New Year, and the guesthouse was decked out in style.  We also received some gifts from them.
Chinese lanterns at night decorate MotherHome Guesthouse

Gifts of fruit and red envelopes with money are traditional gifts
We returned to our room on New Years Eve to this lovely surprise!
We were invited for a New Year's Eve celebration at the home of Chhunly, the manager of Honour Village.  Sweets are also a traditional gift, signifying wishes for a sweet year, so we filled a basket with cookies, sweets, soda, dried fruits and a little gift of $$, and headed off for an evening of feasting and celebration.
Our gift basket

Gordon told us he'd arranged for a ride out to Chhunly's house in a truck.  Little did we realize that it would be in the back of the truck.  So Gordon and five ladies in our skirts and dresses climbed aboard, and rode  out to the countryside sitting on the edge of the truck bed.  Mostly the ride was good until we got onto the side road which had fairly large potholes.  I think we may all have bruises in unmentionable places.  Note to self:  Next time, bring pillow!  (Wait, didn't I say that after the truck ride up to Preah Vihear?)

L to R - Jill, Rosie, April, Gordon, me, Moira

Chunnly lives with his family out near the West Baray, a little farther past the school that we volunteered at last year.  Riding out to hs place we remarked at how lush the vegetation is out that way, near the areas that are well irrigated by the baray (reservoir).  We were warmly greeted by the entire family.  They kept bringing out more food!  We had a fantastic dinner of Khmer curry, chicken, vegetable stew, fried noodles, rice noodles, lots of fruit and lots of beer.  A great time was had by all!

Happy Chinese New Year!  Sausedai chnam thmey!

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