Cambodians celebrate at El Dorado Park Bigger, better New Year
By Samantha Gonzaga
LONG BEACH — It's a year of firsts, this third day of the Cambodian New Year of the Rooster.
More entertainment. More vendor booths. Between 150 and 200 event volunteers, the most organizing group Cambodia Coordinating Committee has seen. And most importantly, it was the first year the event sold out, said president Danny Vong.
"I believe for the first time, this year we can put something in the bank," he said.
Dollar figures were unavailable Saturday. Proceeds will go toward next year's event.
Thousands converged at El Dorado Park Saturday to take part in New Year festivities. The event featured live music, singing contests, skits, games and native cuisine. Vendors sold items that ranged from water guns and plastic leis to commemorative T-shirts and home furnishings.
Merrymakers took advantage of the weather to throw private picnics, bringing tents, woven mats and blankets and portable barbecue grills. Teenagers socialized and played volleyball, while children chased each other with water guns.
"There's more dancers," said Nathaniel Lurn, event assistant coordinator. "There's a bigger volunteer effort, another area for kids, more vendor and more food. All around, it's a little bit bigger and a little bit better."
The controversy behind the first Cambodian New Year parade originally scheduled today, but moved to next Sunday because April 17 is the 30th anniversary of the Khner Rouge's bloody push into Phnom Penh did not affect the happy mood of the event, Lurn said.
In the weeks leading up to the weekend, the Cambodian community was divided over the appropriateness of a festive parade on a day linked to violence.
Cambodian New Year typically falls in mid-April, at the end of the country's dry season. It is traditionally celebrated over the course of three days, each designated with its own rituals, prayers, temple visits, gift-giving, and the symbolic bathing of Buddha statues to invite a prosperous harvest. In the United States, the celebration is a two-day weekend celebration.
Like the Chinese, Cambodians use a lunar calendar and follow a 12-year cycle that assigns each year to one of 12 astrological animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.