The full moon of the 3rd lunar month marks the celebration of Meak Bochea Day, an important Buddhist holiday which usually falls in late February or early March. Historically, this day commemorates the ordainment of Buddha’s first 1,250 disciples, who spontaneously came to see him and to listen to his sermon 2,500 years ago.
On this public holiday, Cambodians go to local temples and perform merit making activities. In the evening these temples host candle processions called Wien Tien, in which devotees walk thrice around the temple – with a candle, incense sticks and lotus flower in hand.
This is a colourful festival, with the wats (temples) decked out in colorful buntings and flags and aspara dancers bearing bouquets of lotus flowers while chhai-yam drummers appear dressed in traditional costume. One of the best places to witness this annual event is at Wat Phnom, in the capital city of Phnom Penh.