Before the festival, Khmer people have to prepare very carefully in terms of cuisine, dress and housing. Children have new clothes for New Year day.
Each family redecorates the Buddhist altar, the house (both inside and outside). The daily work is temporarily stopped. People believe that there is a Mr. Fairy named Teveda who is in charge of taking care of their daily life for the term of one year. When a year ends, there will be another Teveda to take care of their daily life. That’s the reason they perform the ceremony.
The first day of New Year (called Sangkran). Khmer people carry out the ceremony to greet “new Angkran” at the selected time which they consider good. People take a bath before wearing new clothes; then they will bring offerings to the pagoda and perform the ceremony. Under the monitor of Mr. Acha, every one stand in line and go around the presbytery 3 times to welcome the New Year.
In the second day of New Year (called Wonbot), each family will carry out a ceremony in which they will bring food to the bonzes. Most Khmer people follow the southern Buddhism or Theravada (the main religion of southern Khmer people). According to this religion, in festival days, the Buddhist followers have to offer cooked rice and food to bonzes.
In the afternoon, another ceremony is performed right at the yard of the pagoda. People make “a sand mountain” (Puon phnon khsach) as directed by Mr. Acha to ask for luck. This ceremony is closely attached with the wish for rainy days of ancient people.
The third day, people carry out the washing for Buddha Statue with scented water, and then for old bonzes in the pagoda in order to clear all the trouble of the old year and step in a new year. In the afternoon, people come back o their home and perform the washing ceremony for Buddha statue in each family and wish the best things for their parents, grandparents.
In three Chol Chnam Thmay days, Khmer people also visit their relatives and neighbors and wish each other health, happiness and wealth. In the evening, people organize many activities .The elderly tell stories and legends to the children. Young boys and girls take part in traditional singing and dancing activity.
In Ho Chi Minh City, you may visit No. 164/235 Tran Quoc Thao, Ward 7, District 3 to experience the Chol Chnam Thmay festival, which draw much attention from many Buddhist followers as well as visitors.