How people celebrate birthdays in Cambodia | Traditions

How people celebrate birthdays in Cambodia | Traditions

Birthday Celebration in Cambodia

There are as many people on the earth that has different tastes. It’s the same situation in how various holidays, rituals and traditions are being celebrated. The same occasion in different countries is being celebrated in different ways, and, sometimes, even in radically diverse styles. How is Cambodia’s birthday celebrated?

One friend of mine from Siem Reap, in the north-west of Cambodia, told me about this tradition. This city is World famous for the fact that it has one of the Wonders of the world – a temple complex “Angkor Wat” (Khmer អង្គរវត្ត). I haven’t been in this amazing place however, I will write a separate story about what happened, but during the time I  spent in Siem Reap, I learned a lot about Cambodia.

The Secret of Birthday Celebration in Cambodia

The birthdays in Cambodia do not celebrate in the traditional way for most of the people, specifically they are not celebrated birthdays at all! Yes, yes, it is possible! 😉

If a Cambodian had his birthday, he (or she) invites friends, most often they are going to drink beer (this is the most popular drink in Cambodia) and

  • if you are the BEST friend or relative of the birthday person, then you will give $50-100 (the US dollar is the second currency in Cambodia on a par with the Cambodian Riel);
  • if you are just a friend (you are not a very close friend) or husband/wife of one of the friends, then it’s enough just to give $15-20

Here is a simple mathematics 🙂 or on the other side this is just friendly monetary relations.

Stack of cambodian riels
Stack of Cambodian riels

Since I’m telling you the birthday’s story, I would like to tell you about the most important holiday of the year – which is the birthday celebration of the King of Cambodia – Norodom Sihamoni.

King’s Birthday in Cambodia

The current ruler – King in Cambodia is Norodom Sihamoni. He took up this great post in 2004, after the unexpected abdication of his father, Norodom Sihanouk, and since then, I believe, he has managed to change his country for the better.

King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni
King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni

The current King of Cambodia was born on May 14, 1953, and his birthday is recognized as a public holiday. It is celebrated as much as three days, from May 13 to May 15! (probably there are too many guests to deal with and so many gifts to receive 🙂 ) During these days, all the government buildings around Cambodia are decorated with national flags and portraits of the King.

And later on the 31st of October, is another memorable day which is very important in the country’s history – this is the birthday of the King’s father Norodom Sihanouk.

Portrait of King-father of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk at the government building in Phnom Penh
Portrait of King-father of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk at the government building in Phnom Penh
Dmitriy Nikitin

I love travelling like a "savage", and stay not in hotels where "all inclusive", but where people’s foot has not often stepped. My very first time I went camping with tents was in 1997 to Crimea, in the area of the “Blue Bay”, and after that I can’t stop ;) I'm an optimist and I try to share this mood to others! Live actively, appreciate every day, be attentive to loved ones, love nature!

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