Bon Om Touk, also known as the Cambodian Water Festival, is a vibrant and significant celebration in Cambodia that takes place in late October or early November. The festival marks the end of the monsoon season and attracts millions of people each year. Spanning three days, the festival is filled with various activities and events, including dragon boat races, fireworks displays, and evening concerts.
The origins of the Water Festival can be traced back to the 12th century when boat racing was first celebrated during the reign of Jayavarman VII. The festival also has historical significance as it was believed to please the gods and ensure a bountiful fishing season and harvest. Additionally, it served as a training ground for the King’s navy.
During the festival, Cambodians from different provinces make special trips to Phnom Penh, where the largest celebrations are held along the Tonle Sap River. People gather along the riverbanks to watch the exciting boat races, cheer for their favorite teams, and enjoy picnics with friends and family. In the evening, small handmade boats adorned with candles are released into the river, creating a beautiful spectacle. Fireworks displays light up the night sky, adding to the festive atmosphere.
The Water Festival is not only a time for celebration but also a national holiday in Cambodia. Many Cambodians take this opportunity to spend time with their families, travel to different communities to witness how they celebrate, or visit temples in Siem Reap. The festival holds nostalgic memories for many, such as watching traditional dances and lanterns in Kampong Cham province as a child or experiencing the festivities in Siem Reap, which offers a unique alternative to the bustling celebrations in Phnom Penh.
The Cambodian Water Festival is a cherished tradition that brings together communities to celebrate their cultural heritage. It is a time of joy, unity, and appreciation for the water that sustains their lives. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, this festival continues to hold great significance in Cambodian culture and remains an event that showcases the vibrancy and spirit of its people.
Water Festival Ceremony (Bon Om Touk) : November 26, 27, 28