STOCKTON — Thousands of people from throughout California celebrated Choul Chnam Thmey this weekend at the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in Stockton.
Cambodian New Year is the temple’s largest event of the year, drawing visitors who are looking to celebrate with family and friends, as well as marvel at the temple’s more than 90 colorful statues celebrating the life of Buddha.
Nancy Lee, 45, spent her first New Year in Stockton this year.
She said she came from Newport Coast, which is south of Los Angeles, to experience the celebration at Stockton’s temple, which is at 3732 E. Carpenter Road in south Stockton.
“I heard this temple is beautiful and saw photos on Facebook for many years, so I made a plan that this year we’re coming to enjoy the New Year here,” said Lee, who wore a blue floral sarong, a white top with floral embroidery and a flower behind her right ear.
“It feels like we’re back at home in Cambodia,” she said of finally seeing the temple in person.
The three-day celebration started Friday and continues today.
During Saturday’s event, senior monk Kong Tith led a procession honoring Buddha’s bones. Monks and visitors followed behind until reaching the stage, where they prayed together.
Part of the cultural program of Saturday’s celebration also included performances from the Khmer Ballet of Stockton, as well as performers from outside of the area, who wore traditional Cambodian garb on stage, as well as a fashion show highlighting Cambodian styles.
The mood was festive at the event as families sat in groups to share meals, children blew bubbles, women and men danced, and music blared from different ends of the event. The scent of incense wafted through the air toward the back of the grounds, where family members stopped at a sand stupa, or sand mountain, to pray.
The purpose is to ask ancestors to move forward and watch over the family from heaven, said Elk Grove resident Nhep Lim, whose daughter, Som Lim, translated for her.
Nhep Lim and her family lit incense, prayed and then took a group photo to commemorate the occasion.
Som Lim, 41, of San Jose, said she was excited to celebrate New Year in Stockton to experience the temple, the community, the environment, and the food. It was also an important time to honor parents, she said looking at her mom; parents are important during this celebration.
Tith on Wednesday said the celebration is important to pass along to children the teachings of Buddha, which include being respectful of their parents. The New Year is a time for people to listen and to remember Buddha’s five laws: no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or drinking alcohol, he added.
Lee said Cambodian culture is so beautiful.
“It’s very important to keep that culture so it doesn’t fade away, so my children and their children will continue to keep our traditions,” she said.
For more information, go to www.watdhammararambuddhist.org.
Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.