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The LHS Review

LHS student’s Khmer New Year

Student visits festival in Stockton, California

Dellina Nhep, Staff Contributor

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Photo by Dellina Nhep
By Dellina Nhep

Stockton, CA- In Spring 2017 my family and I decided to go to California to visit family and places.

During the Khmer New Year we all celebrated at Wat Dhammararam Temple.

At the time we went there, it was a couple days before celebration which was very exciting because I knew we would be celebrating at this well known Khmer Temple.

In the town Stockton they honor the Cambodian New Year with a whole weekend celebration, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It’s a Khmer party like no other I experienced.

My hometown, Lowell, Massachusetts, hosts a shorter celebration with distinct music, a Khmer dance from the Anghor Dance troupe, the traditional games and many Khmer foods.

Photo Courtesy of Setha Sot
Anghor Dance Troupe performed a traditional Khmer story at the Khmer New Year Celebration in Lowell High School.

In Lowell, a mill city with the second largest Cambodian community in the United States, the Cambodian celebration finds all different people learning about the culture.  Still, it is limited to one day and it’s done.

At the enormous Wat Dhammararam Temple I spent two days straight, Friday and Saturday at the festival grounds almost exclusively with Cambodian people in shared cultural experience.

On Friday the party was just beginning as people finished work and arrived by car throughout the day.

As I walked along the path toward the temple, I felt the grass scratching at my leg.

The anticipation built as I admired the ornate Asian architecture of the Buddhist temple ahead of me. At the entrance there are colorful Cambodian flags dancing along in the wind.

In Cambodia, monks are highly respected people in the culture.  And in the Khmer communities of the United States that tradition continues.

So, at the celebration people offer food to the sacred monks, who dedicate their lives to prayer. Beautiful Khmer chants  can be heard echoing through the air from the orange robed monks.

As you enter the festival area, venues with Khmer language signs tell the visitors which foods, drinks, jewelry, t-shirt are being sold by Khmer vendors.

As you walk around, you’ll hear the traditional music of string instruments and Cambodian people casually singing along as they reminisce to their past lives in the homeland.

The rich smell of the favorite Khmer spices waft in the air. Some of my favorites are the beef stick, fried rice and lo mein noodles. The foods were authentic and absolutely delicious filled with so much flavor and just the right texture.Photo by Dellina Nhep

My family and I bought our souvenirs and sat on the grass.  Even though the grounds were really wet because of the moist dirt and the hot sun beat down our faces, it was worth it to be in our culture and it reminded my mother of the weather in Cambodia.

As I walked around more the beautiful statues greeted us. The statues there are quite astonishing and very detailed. Each statue has important meaning in the Cambodian Culture.

The statues of women dressed in unique traditional and delicate pieces brought me back to ancient life of Cambodia. Again, people crowded the statues offering prayers to the point where it’s hard to ease your way around.

My experience there was quite phenomenal and I hope to visit this powerful place again next year.

This is Dellina Nhep reporting from Stockton, California.

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LHS student’s Khmer New Year