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Local Buddhist temples plan for April 13 new year observance

Dallas Morning News, April 3, 2008

Dallas, Texas (USA) -- During the 1970s, Paul Thai, like most of his fellow countrymen, lived in terror during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Despite the many hardships from those years, the Dallas police lieutenant said, one of his fondest childhood memories was celebrating Chaul Chnam Thmey, or the Cambodian new year.

For many years, Lt. Thai has worked in Dallas to re-create the celebration, which falls on April 13 this year.

"In Cambodia, the new year observance lasts three days and three nights," said Lt. Thai, one of the first Asian-Americans to serve in the Dallas Police Department.

"During this time, everyone was off from work and all businesses were closed. It was a very exciting event for everyone, and especially for my family."

"My family would get together with our relatives and go to the Buddhist temple, where we played games," said Lt. Thai, who works with the neighborhood police coordination unit.

"At night we would watch outdoor movies at the temple ...What a treat!"

Several Asian countries celebrate the start of the new year this month – including Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). The celebrations combine Buddhist beliefs, ancient astrology and the solar calendar. Festivities last from three to seven days and are marked by the pouring or sprinkling of water for a symbolic cleansing for the new year.

Leck Keovilay, a Laotian community volunteer, said the day before the new year is spent cleaning house and preparing food. "The second day, we normally go to the temple and offer food to the monks and spend the day praying. The next day is spent celebrating, visiting with friends, holding parades and attending festivals."

Several area Buddhist temples will hold new year celebrations. The festivities are free and open to the public and will take place from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Food is often brought to the monks, who offer blessings for the coming year. At most locations, there will be food booths, cultural performances, games, parades and, of course, the splashing of water.

Despite the many hardships from those years, the Dallas police lieutenant said, one of his fondest childhood memories was celebrating Chaul Chnam Thmey, or the Cambodian new year.

For many years, Lt. Thai has worked in Dallas to re-create the celebration, which falls on April 13 this year.

"In Cambodia, the new year observance lasts three days and three nights," said Lt. Thai, one of the first Asian-Americans to serve in the Dallas Police Department.

"During this time, everyone was off from work and all businesses were closed. It was a very exciting event for everyone, and especially for my family."

"My family would get together with our relatives and go to the Buddhist temple, where we played games," said Lt. Thai, who works with the neighborhood police coordination unit.

"At night we would watch outdoor movies at the temple ...What a treat!"

Several Asian countries celebrate the start of the new year this month – including Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). The celebrations combine Buddhist beliefs, ancient astrology and the solar calendar. Festivities last from three to seven days and are marked by the pouring or sprinkling of water for a symbolic cleansing for the new year.

Leck Keovilay, a Laotian community volunteer, said the day before the new year is spent cleaning house and preparing food. "The second day, we normally go to the temple and offer food to the monks and spend the day praying. The next day is spent celebrating, visiting with friends, holding parades and attending festivals."

Several area Buddhist temples will hold new year celebrations. The festivities are free and open to the public and will take place from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Food is often brought to the monks, who offer blessings for the coming year. At most locations, there will be food booths, cultural performances, games, parades and, of course, the splashing of water.

Among them:

Wat Lao Siribudhavas of Dallas, 2772 Blackland Road, Royse City, 972-771-3350. Festivities begin about 10 a.m. April 12 and 13. At 2 p.m., Buddha statues will be brought outdoors to be cleansed.

Wat Lao Thepnimit, 7105 Marvin Brown St., Saginaw, 817-238-8543 April 26 and 27th. A Miss Lao New Year pageant will be held April 26, with the winner to lead Sunday's parade.

Wat Preahkeo Morokat, 206 Cherokee Path, Flower Mound, Sunday.

Wat Jetaponkhemararam, 5701 Crystal Lake in Dallas, 214-709-5300, April 13.



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