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In US, Cambodians Ring in the Year of the Goat

At the Wat Kampuchea Krom temple in Nokesville, Virginia, Cambodian residents celebrated the Khmer New Year this weekend with others from the community, amid Buddhist chanting, music, dance and offerings of Cambodian food.

The New Year is a time to pay respects to the souls of ancestors and to celebrate the coming of a new spirit to chase away the old. In the US, many Cambodians say the Khmer New Year is a way to keep their traditions alive.

This year, an increasing number of people came to the Kampuchea Krom temple, said Chau Sokban, head of the temple. They came to celebrate the New Year and “support and preserve Buddhism, permanently for the future,” he said.

More and more people are trying to understand their culture and encouraging their children to get involved, he said.

Thach Horn, a layman at the temple, said Khmer New Year is a reminder that Cambodians who have left their home country have not forgotten their culture. “They’ve come from everywhere to join the celebration and pay respect for their loved one’s souls, and to recall culture and customs.”

Thach Sameth, from Michigan, said she was happy to be visiting Virginia for the holiday. “Every day, if there are children living nearby, we call them to come celebrate the New Year, to maintain our customs, which have existed for a long time.”

Samantha Tith, from Springfield, Virginia, said people come to help Buddhism survive. “Why? Because I believe our brothers and sisters want to help and encourage themselves, to sustain Buddhism and to have a place of worship.”

Yim Horn, a Woodbridge resident, said he takes part in Khmer New Year every year.

“I come to this temple to bring food to offer to the monks and to preserve the Cambodian custom and promote Buddhism to be prosperous,” he said.