Most young Cambodians know when Christmas is: December 25, of course. Funny enough, some of them don’t know when Visaka Bochea is.
It’s great that teenagers are becoming more aware of other cultures and that Cambodia is so open to the outside world, but that may come at a price. Younger Cambodians seem to be forgetting their own roots, history, culture and civilisation.
Have you ever stopped to think how these celebrations are affecting Cambodian culture and the future of this country’s identity?
Cambodia is growing – fast. This country is becoming a place for cultural exchange attracting tourists and investors from all over the world. The younger generation is experiencing a new wave of ideas from all over the world which they are receiving with open arms. Teens are especially open to news and exciting ideas.
Christmas is a fun and exciting time, a chance to exchange gifts and hang out with friends. For the younger generations, it’s an event that they can enjoy more instead of Visaka Bocheak. The traditional holy day is associated with the older generations, and not reflective of a new era.
Young Cambodians are being exposed to different media: ideas that have never been seen before in Cambodia. Now, there are more TV and radio channels that promote Christmas. Sometimes there are Christmas competitions where the winners can have the chance to win awesome free prizes.
Dr Ros Chantraboth, an expert in Cambodian history, said, “TV advertising wants to get the attention to their products. This is really impacting Cambodian culture.”
“Promotions for Christmas causes our youth to get confused about their traditions, since it’s not just a holiday but a religion too. Therefore, in the future, Cambodia faces loosing its national identity, since our young generation doesn’t know what are real culture is.”
Cambodia must be proud of its own history and culture. Be careful not to let consumerism and advertisements affect the way you think about what it means to be Cambodian.
According to Thav Nimol, a history teacher at Dangkao Secondary School, students in high school and primary school exchange gifts with each other, but they do not know why. He said, “Christmas seems much more popular in this decade since the media and ministry of culture and fine art seem to encourage it.”
These teenagers are also spending a lot of time and money to buy presents, post cards and to hold parties with their friends, but many of them still depend on their parents. Some students are so excited about Christmas that don’t pay attention in school or even skip classes.
Ouk Leakhena, 16, a student at Wat Koh high school, said that for Christmas last year, she just bought candy to share with friends and classmates. “My friends and I will go to one friend’s house to celebrate Christmas by eating together and having fun,” Ouk Leakhena said. “I think it is a normal day but my friends like to arrange parties and I just join in the fun.”
Some might be worried that the younger Cambodians are becoming too carried away with a festival that has nothing to do with their identity, but is only about buying new things. They worry that people might over-value foreign culture to their own. Perhaps the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Information should consider how they are impacting Khmer culture, especially among youth.
It’s difficult to stop the impact of globalisation and influences from the West, but Cambodians should try and remember who they are and what their own identity is. It is never wrong to accept foreign cultures, but Cambodia should not forget its own.