by Nguon Sovan
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian cultural experts said the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, has been broadly celebrated in Cambodia thanks to the country's respect for cultural diversity and close relationship between the peoples of the two countries.
This year, the Chinese Lunar New Year -- the Year of the Horse - - falls on Jan. 31.
Samrang Kamsan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said Cambodia usually marks three new year occasions: Universal New Year, Chinese New Year and Khmer New Year.
"Chinese New Year is the second largest new year celebration in Cambodia after the Khmer New Year," he told Xinhua in an interview. "Nearly all Cambodian people celebrate the Chinese New Year."
He said the broad celebration is ascribed to the country's respect for all beliefs and religions and close relationship between the Cambodian and Chinese peoples.
"The Cambodian government and people respect for cultural diversity, and cultural diversity have been welcomed, preserved and developed in Cambodia," he said. "Most importantly, many Cambodians have Chinese descent."
Samrang Kamsan himself is a Cambodian with Chinese descent.
"My great grandfather was a Chinese who married a Cambodian girl after he migrated to Cambodia in 1900," he said, adding that his family has celebrated the Spring Festival since then.
"We celebrate the festival every year to remember our ancestors and to wish for luck, wealth, and happiness in the new year," he said.
Chinese New Year is not a public holiday in Cambodia, but some schools and state institutions are closed by themselves in order to allow students and civil servants to enjoy the occasion, he said.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday voiced his greeting for the Chinese New Year and blessed the Cambodian people with good luck and health, and success in the new year.
"I'd like to bless all of you with prosperity, fortune, and longevity on the occasion of the Chinese New Year," the premier said in his opening speech at a national conference at the Peace Palace, which was attended by some 400 government and provincial officials.
According to figures from the Chinese Association in Cambodia, over 700,000 Chinese descendants are living in the country.
By Sokong, a researcher on culture and Khmer language at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the Spring Festival is commonly celebrated in this Southeast Asian nation.
"Even those Cambodians who have no Chinese descent also celebrate the Chinese New Year because they believe that the celebration will bring them luck, wealth, and happiness throughout the year," he told Xinhua, adding that he also celebrated the occasion.
Days ahead of the Chinese New Year, Cambodians of Chinese descent have been busy cleaning their houses and decorating them with red color paper-cuts, flowers, red lanterns and Chinese couplets, he said.
Chinese couplets are seen hung on doors and walls of houses and shops to wish for good fortune and happiness in the new year.
Duong Chhiv, president of the Chinese Association in Cambodia, said during the Chinese New Year, lion dances are invited to perform across the country.
"Lion dances are widely welcomed in Cambodia. Every year, lion dances are allowed to stage at the capital's Royal Palace to mark the Spring Festival," he said.
He added that in Chinese belief, lion dances are performed as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Spring Festival and to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.