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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Khmer

Many are cognizant of the large Vietnamese community we have at UMass Boston and here in Dorchester. With a Veteran’s Memorial on Morrissey Blvd. and an abundance of stores and restaurants, there are plenty of places one can be immersed in Vietnamese culture. With such a large presence in the community it’s no surprise that I’m frequently asked “What are you? Vietnamese?” My response is always a somewhat second nature, “Nah, I’m Khmer”. After which I’m met with perplexed stares before I clarified that I am Cambodian, a descendent of the Khmer Empire from Southeast Asia.

Most Cambodians refer to themselves and their culture as Khmer. One of the largest Khmer communities happens to be nearby north of town in the city of Lynn. Wat Sanghikaram, a Khmer Theravada Buddhist temple in Lynn, has been the focal point to a Khmer community in Boston’s North Shore. The most recent of festivities held at Wat Sanghikaram was in celebration of Khmer New Year, The Year of the Ox. Unlike a typical new year that most of world celebrates, Khmer New Year is a three part celebration that generally starts on either April 13th or April 14th, whichever date keeps up with the lunar calendar. The first part is known as Moha Songkran. On this first day, people generally burn incents at shrines to give praise to the Buddha and offer thanks for his teachings. For good luck, people often use holy water to wash their face in the morning, chests at noon and their feet in the evening.

The second day of celebration is known as Wanabat. This day is a day of charity, giving to those who are less fortunate. Families also attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at nearby temples. The third day of celebration is known Tanai Lieang Saka. On this day, statues of Buddha are rinsed and cleansed with perfumed water. This is very important because water is essential to plants and life. This cleansing process is believed to bring forth longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity. Many traditional Khmer games are also played during the celebration. Wat Sanghikaram has been a kind host to not only this year’s, but also prior celebrations for Khmers in the North Shore.

Umass Boston has proven itself to be a cultural melting pot from the eclectic mix of flags encircling the campus to the courses focusing on cultures from every corner and niche around the globe. In the spirit of Umass Boston’s dedication to recognizing different cultures we wish to reform the Khmer Culture Association or KCA at the university to bring not only an opportunity for Cambodian students to celebrate a rich heritage but also for people of all races and backgrounds to learn about their neighbors. The club is intended to start this fall for those interested in joining, members will explore Cambodian cuisine, film, and activities as well as meet many new faces. Those further interested in culture should consider attending the Annual Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell, MA during the month of August.

Those interested in the club can contact Kevin Tan at [email protected]