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Cambodians Welcome Year of the Rabbit, 2555

A Cambodian man races his oxcart upon the oxcart tournament during a merit making ceremony Wednesday, at Prey Ta-auk village, Kampong Speu province. The ceremony was held in advance of Cambodian New Year's celebration which lasts for three days, from Apri

Cambodians nationwide rung in the Buddhist year 2555 on Thursday afternoon, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit at 1:12 pm.

The age old tradition of the new year celebration follows a Buddhist calendar and is observed in the fifth month, Khe Chet, when farming is typically finished and before the rainy season begins.

Phnom Penh’s increasingly busy streets quieted by the afternoon, as shops shuttered, families gathered and pagodas opened their gates to receive well-wishers. Police stood by to prevent holiday crimes.

“We will not allow trouble from gangsters or thieves or robbers,” Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said Tuesday. “And each police post around the country is standing by to prevent these bad activities in Buddhist pagodas, entertainment sites and along the roads.”

Young men and women, boys and girls, gathered for traditional games, including a scarf toss, tug-of-war and leaf snatching. Revelers prepared for performances of music, comedy, dancing and other traditional celebrations in pagodas, public spaces or entertainment venues.

“All the popular games show the abilities, close relationships and wisdom of youth,” said Meach Pon, an adviser for Khmer traditions at the Buddhist Institute. “The meaning of the popular games is for fun.”