“Thanks-giving to the moon” Festival and Boating Competition

Formerly, the Khmer people uses to celebrate New Year’s Day on the 15th of Kadock month (equivalent to the 10th lunar month), a date regarded as the completion of the Moon’s revolution around the Earth. The advent of the New Year takes place at midnight of the 15th when there is a full moon. At that time, the Moon is understood to begin a new cycle.
This custom is connected with agricultural production. The Khmer people cultivate the land in two seasons: the rainy season from April to October and the dry season from October to April (Khmer calendar). Therefore, at the end of a cycle, they used to hold a “Thanks-giving” ceremony to the Moon as God, who regulates the weather and seasons and helps human beings to earn their livelihood. The main offering is grilled rice. In accordance with a Khmer custom, after performing the religious rituals, the parents feed the grilled rice to the children. Once they have swallowed mouthfuls of grilled rice the parents softly stroke their backs and ask them what they want. The children’s replies serve as a basis for foretelling the family’s fortune in the coming year.
The Festival also involves several games.
In highlands areas, far away from the rivers, people make lamps which sail on the lakes (Loibatip game) or fly in the air and area taken away by the wind (Bang Has Kom game).
The “Ngo” boating competition is participated in by those areas lying on river banks. This involves “Ngo” boats, which in Khmer language mean wooden boats on bow and stem. Each “Ngo” boat is big enough for 10 to 20 rowers. The boat race is an attractive festival for both Khmer areas lying on rivers banks and Vietnamese people. Usually, such a competition requires elaborate preparations. A specific portion of the river must be chosen, as must the central part of the river bank where the Examination Committee, the Referees, the important guests and other spectators are to be seated. The area must be decorated with flags of various colours and provided with chairs and benches.
Rowers start practicing ten days prior to the competition, with food and other nourishment provided by the villagers.
On the day of competition, all the participants and their “Ngo” boats must assemble at a scheduled point of departure. Rowers sit alongside while the leader-cum- steering man sits at the end of the boats. Specific details relating to organization and rules may vary from one area to another, but generally a post is planted in the middle of a downstream portion of the river facing the pavilion of the examiners. All the race boats must sail around the post for a required number of times before returning to the point of departure. The first boat that finishes the required rounds is given first prize.
Victory in a boat race of this kind requires several factors: a well-built boat, both solid and rapid, and a team of physically strong and well-trained rowers who act in unison under the command of the team leader. Ovations and encouragements from the spectators are no less important.
Boating races are associated with religious rituals practiced by many peoples in Southeast Asia to call for rains.

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