Christmas in Cambodia
- There are about 20,000 Roman Catholic Christians in modern Cambodia representing the 0.15% of the total population that is mostly Buddhist.
- Although Protestant churches state that they made the 2% of the Cambodian population with about 1,000 worship places in the country, their number is not official and they could be less than 10,000.
- The second largest religious group of Cambodia is Muslims represented in the Cham minority that could be much largest than all Christians combined.
Cambodia is one of those few countries with a State Official Religion according to its Political Constitution: Theravada Buddhism:
“Cambodian Citizens of both sexes shall have the right to belief. The freedom of religious belief and practices shall be guaranteed by the State on condition that they do not affect other beliefs, orders and public security. Buddhism is the State religion.” (Art. 43)
For most Cambodians, Christmas time has not a national impact such as Buddhist celebrations and it is seen as something restricted to the Christians in particular. The Ramadan of the Muslim Cambodians has much attention like the head of state participating in the closing of the season and some greeting speeches, but you never heard the Primer Minister addressing a Christmas greeting to all Cambodian Christians, although they really exist. In a certain way, Christianity still regarded as a religion of the old colonialist French or, even more worrying, a Vietnamese religion. However, more Cambodians are getting used to say “Merry Christmas” after December 25 or, as many would say in a wrongly funny way “Happy Merry Christmas.“
The Vesak is the ‘Buddhist Christmas‘ – that forced combination to say that it is the time where Buddhist Cambodians celebrated the Birth of Siddhartha between May and June. Therefore, asking how would be a Christmas in Cambodia is like asking how would be a Vesak in Ireland.
The Vesak celebrates not only the birth of Buddha, but also his enlightening and death. The full moon marks such celebration – see Buddhist Holidays and Festivals, Urban Darhma.
If you are a Christian, attending a Christmas celebration in Cambodia could be of particular affection, because it is in a small-scale. As for Catholics, there are chapels in all Cambodian provinces. You have to listen the ministering in Khmer language, but symbols and carrolls are just beautiful and caring.
Roman Catholicism has been in the country since 1555. The wars and conflicts suffered by Cambodia in the centuries to follow, kept Christianity as a minority, although there were some groups of Christian immigrants that fled persecutions in Japan in the 17th century and settled in Ponhea Lu, near Phnom Penh; in 1660, Catholic Indonesians took refuge in Columpe (Phnom Penh) and in Ponhea Lu. As a curious fact, the Vietnamese and Thai took the Cambodian Catholics to their own countries after they invaded, reducing their numbers in the subjugated kingdom.
If you need information about Catholic Christmas celebrations in any province, let a comment in this post and we will reply with due information as soon as possible. You can call also to 097.371.2020 (Fr. Samnang)