khmer new year

khmer (cambodian) new year happened last week (april 12-14th).  i went home for my annual visit to our local buddhist temple for good karma.  my mother tries really hard to keep us involved with our culture and community and i do my best to comply.  we celebrate two of the bigger holidays -- new year's and the day of the dead to honor our ancestors (sometime in october).  so for mom, i try to come home every khmer new year and this time, i put together three simple bouquets -- two for home for our family's offering to this year's deity and one for the local temple.  

i'll likely botch up describing everything so it take with the grain of salt.  

each year, mom lays out an offering fruit and soda for the deity on the eve (i don't know why soda).  the fruit should be the deity's favorite fruit, but we didn't find out in time so mom put out mangoes and watermelons.  and everything needs offered in pairs.  

we went to the temple the next morning.  it's difficult to describe what's going on here, partly because my khmer isn't as good as my english.  much, if not all, of the prayers are in sanskrit and i only know a single prayer, which they didn't say this time.  i was somewhat disappointed; it's the only meaningful way that i could've participated.  just for the sake of sharing, here it is:

buddham saaranum gachaami - i take refuge in the buddha
sanghum saaranum gachaami - i take refuge in the sangha (the community)
dharmum saaranum gachaami - i take refuge in the dharma (the teaching)

i somewhat dread prayer time though.  we have to sit there with our legs folded to the side.  i'm not flexible and it's not comfortable.  i'm grateful that it lasts for less than 10 minutes.

at some point, we kneel before the buddha altar (below left), light three sticks of incense, put our hands together in front our faces and bow down three times and say "saa touk".  afterwards we place the incense in a pot (below right).

below is an offering of rice.  everyone each has a little bowl of rice and with a clean spoon, places a scoop of rice in each of the five black pots (below left) and the remaining rice is placed into the big silver bowl with our hands (below right).

when i was much younger, my parents were really good about teaching me the rituals.  however, it was an intro buddhist studies in college that helped me understand the overarching principles and the creation myths.  i'll admit that the language barrier is pretty tough (sometimes in temple, i don't know if they're speaking khmer or sanskrit -- sigh), so learning the subject in english was much easier.  for instance, i know that cambodians and other southeast asians mainly practice theravada buddhism, in which the lay people help monks attain enlightenment.  also, i learned the prayer above along with the translation.