The AjA Project: Photography Programs for San Diego Youth

City Heights Celebrates the Khmer New Year Festival: A Slice of Cambodia in the City Heights Community

By Beto Soto & Brent Jensen | beto@ajaproject.org & brent@ajaproject.org

On April 12th and 13th, the Cambodian community in City Heights came together to celebrate the Khmer New Year. Traditionally, the Khmer New Year is celebrated over a three-day-long festival, with special events hosted each day.

 

At the City Heights Wat Sovannkiri Buddhist Temple on 52nd Street, opulent detail and vibrantly colored flags decorate the side façade during the New Year celebration. Opulent architectural detail and vibrantly colored flags decorate the side facade of the Wat Sovannkiri Buddhist Temple on 52nd Street in City Heights for the New Year.

 

The festival was held at Colina Del Sol Park and Recreation Center in City Heights.  The Cambodian community gathered to say goodbye to the year of the snake, to welcome the year of the horse, and to wish each other health, wisdom, and good luck for the incoming year.  Over 300 people attended the event.  The event served a wide variety of traditional Cambodian food and featured a costume runway show of traditional clothing worn during Cambodian weddings.  Vendors sold gifts including toys, clothes, traditional garb, artwork, and souvenirs.

 

At the Khmer New Year festival in City Heights on April 12th, 2014, brightly hued Cambodian sarongs were sold at one of the booths.

 

According to Paul Schinelpfenig, the onstage translator, MC, and one of the leading organizers of the festival, the event has lost sponsorship in the past few years.  The size of the festival has changed as a result, but the community has not lost enthusiasm.  This year, the Victoria House Corporation, a local non-profit organization that supports women and children who have been affected by domestic violence, sponsored the Khmer Festival.

 

Fashion show participants display traditional Cambodian attire at the Khmer New Year Festival on April 12th, 2014. The young man dressed in white glances at his fiancé, who is adorned in a gold sarong, traditionally made from silk.

 

The main event was held at Colina Park in City Heights. The Wat Sovannkiri Buddhist Temple– the traditional Cambodian place of Buddhist worship – located at 3864 52nd Street, also held festivities for the New Year.  In the small courtyard surrounding the temple, food was prepared and served for visitors. On the menu were homemade and traditional eggrolls, fried bananas, Thai Tea, rice, beef and chicken skewers.

 

Locals prepare traditional Cambodian spring rolls and Thai tea in celebration of the New Year at local Wat Sovannkiri Buddhist Temple on 52nd Street in City Heights. At the local Buddhist temple located on 52nd Street, City Heights residents prepare traditional Cambodian spring rolls and Thai tea in celebration of the New Year.

 

While the aromas of traditional Cambodian cuisine contributed to the atmosphere, the Temple’s unique architecture created the perfect environment for festival celebrations.  Buddhist statues and figures welcomed visitors to the ornate temple, where monks in orange robes sat in meditative silence among the incense.  Friendly local residents welcomed visitors to their food stands, introducing event patrons to their slice of Cambodia within City Heights.
The Wat Sovannkiri Buddhist Temple was introduced to City Heights in 1982.  Since then it has been an important cultural fixture, where Cambodian practices and lifestyles continue to thrive. The Wat encourages curious residents to explore and experience the diversity of the Cambodian community in City Heights.

For more information, please visit

http://www.hiddensandiego.net/wat-sovannkiri-buddhist-temple.php

 

joe