Cambodians enjoy a long list of secular and religious holidays every year. They share some holidays with western countries, but many are unique to Cambodia. Whenever a public holiday falls on a Sunday, it is observed the following day. Here is a list of the public holidays in Cambodia that will be celebrated in 2019.
New Year’s Day: January 1
Cambodians drink and dance in the streets, and will also frequently throw water at each other during the countdown to the new year.
Victory over Genocide Day: January 7
The end of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime is commemorated with memorials to those who were killed in the genocide.
Chinese New Year: February 5
Although this spring festival is not an official public holiday, there are many Cambodians of Chinese descent who will celebrate by praying to their ancestors for good luck in the coming Year of the Dog.
Meak Bochea: February 19
This religious holiday commemorates the Buddha’s final sermon, and is a day to do good deeds and repent your sins.
International Women’s Day: March 8
This is a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women, and to eradicating violence against women.
Khmer New Year: April 14-16
In a society where many people still work the land, this three-day harvest festival is considered the most important of all the public holidays in Cambodia. Many city-dwellers will head to the Angkor Archaeological Park for Angkor Sankranta, a giant festival with traditional games, dancing, food and exhibitions all highlighting Khmer culture.
Labour Day: May 1
Also known as International Worker’s Day or May Day, this is a day to celebrate the achievements and importance of the working class.
King Sihamoni’s Birthday: May 13-15
The current king of Cambodia will be 66 this year. The country gets a three-day holiday to honor their popular monarch.
Visak Bochea: May 18
This holiest day in the Buddhist calendar marks the birth, death, and attainment of enlightenment of the Buddha. Both public and private areas will be freshly cleaned and decorated with flowers, and many people will visit statues of the Buddha with lit candles in the evening.
Day of Remembrance: May 20
The National Day of Remembrance is Cambodia’s latest addition to an already long list of public holidays. First launched on May 20, 1984, Cambodia’s Day of Remembrance became an official public holiday in 2018. It commemorates the genocide of the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled the country between 1975 and 1979.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony: May 22
This holiday marks the start of the rainy season with feasts and prayers for a bountiful harvest. The highlight of the day is the ceremony in which the king actually does a bit of plowing and planting for the traditional beginning of the rice-growing season.
International Children’s day: June 1
This is a day to honor children and bring attention to children’s charities. Parents make a point to spend some quality time with their children today.
Queen Mother’s Birthday: June 18
The Queen Mum of Cambodia will be 82 years old in 2018. Cambodians celebrate her birthday with family-friendly activities and fireworks.
Constitution Day: September 24
After centuries of hardship caused by invasions, occupations, and the genocidal Khmer Rouge, having a modern constitution is definitely cause for celebration.
Pchum Ben: September 27-29
Also known as Ancestor’s Day, this Buddhist holiday is the time to remember dearly departed relatives.
Commemoration Day of King’s Father: October 15
Anniversary of the death of the current king’s father, who passed away in 2012.
Paris Peace Agreement Day: October 23
This holiday celebrates the end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese war.
King Sihamoni Coronation Day: October 29
The anniversary of the king’s coronation in 2004 is celebrated with fireworks, parades, and a variety of cultural events.
Independence Day: November 9
Parades and fireworks are standard features of the celebrations to mark the anniversary of independence from France in 1953.
Water Festival ( Bon Om Touk): November 11-13
This three-day festival marks the time of year when the Tonle Sap River changes course, and also commemorates a 12th Century naval victory with boat races and fireworks.
Human Rights Day: December 10
This holiday commemorates the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It is especially meaningful in a country that survived the horrible human rights abuses of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Christmas Day: December 25
Christmas is not an official public holiday in this mostly Buddhist country, but there are a few events to mark the day, and you will see some Christmas trees and other decorations, especially in tourist areas, like Pub Street.