Fun-filled Cambodian Community Day Celebrations of Alexandria, Virginia
September 11, 2012
Traditional and contemporary performances of Cambodian music and dance, Southeast Asian ethnic cuisine, arts and handicrafts, and a handmade scale model of the Angkor Wat temple, the structure that graces the Cambodian flag, provided visitors with a glimpse of the country's culture and architecture
By Sam Prasad Jillella - Special to MYDOSTI.COM
ALEXANDRIA, VA — The Cambodian Community Day (CCD) is a yearly festival organized, in the month of August, by Cambodian Americans to promote Cambodian culture and heritage.
Members of the CCD Committee 2012-- Standing (Left to Right) Todd Sellars, Khuy Lim, Vil Cheng, Saody Sok, Ponn Sok, Seda Nak, Ratha Sarath, Erik Chan; Seated (Left to Right) Gary Bogadus, Mary Bogadus, Mantha Yong, Sophia Tep, Salong Bao, Ben Bao, Lovell Cole
According to the 2010 U.S. Census there are 276,667 persons of Cambodian descent in the United States.
Ben Bao, president of CCD, told ASIAN FORTUNE there are approximately 12,000 Cambodians live in the city of Alexandria, and more than 2000 Cambodians attended this year’s festival.
Ben Bao: President of Cambodian Community Day (CCD) Festival
When asked, what his impressions are about the Community Day, an upbeat Bao said: “This day is about Cambodia. We celebrate the culture and heritage of Cambodia. We want to strengthen our voice in America so that people will know us better. It’s about our ancestors who made Cambodia a powerful nation of Southeast Asia. We do this so that Cambodians who are born in the US will know their heritage and pass it to the next generation. This year is very special because we have been able to inspire a lot more volunteers and a lot of revellers.”
For several years, the CCD festival has been made possible by the sponsorship of the Arlington County, the city of Alexandria, and several Cambodian organizations. The county and the city provide CCD with manpower, logistics, and in-kind services. To meet the cost of hosting the festival, CCD organizes year-round fund-raising events.
South East Asian Cuisine stalls at the CCD 2012 Festival
Cheryl Laurence, supervisor of special events of Alexandria Parks and Planning, who worked with CCD in the past 10 years, said: “Alexandria has a rich ethnic culture. We have Afghans, Irish, Armenians, Iranians, African Americans, Native Americans, and many others, who are proud of their own culture. We all want to pass our heritage to our children. I love the Cambodian food, music, and dance. As long as I work for Alexandria Parks and Planning, I am going to party with Cambodians…I love the rich Cambodian culture.”
Sophia Tep, a Vice President of CCD, told ASIAN FORTUNE: “We want to promote our Cambodian culture. We want Americans to see our rich culture.”
Reaksmey Ankor Chum Band entertained the crowd
Legend has it that the land of Cambodia was once under the ocean, and the ocean was ruled by Naga who built an empire under the sea. The land was supposedly ruled by the Indian Empire.
One day, Neang Neak, a daughter of the Naga king, was bathing by the seashore. Her beauty caught the eyes of Preah Thong, a young Indian prince who was visiting the area. Falling in love with the princess at first sight, the prince went to ask the Naga king for Neang Neak’s hand in marriage.
The king refused to give his permission unless Preah Thong defeated the Naga’s most powerful warrior. The prince won the contest, and the marriage took place. Keeping his word, the Naga King swallowed the water to uncover the land that is now known as Cambodia and gifted it to the newlywed couple.
Dancing to the tunes of Cambodia
Archaeological evidence suggests that early Cambodians were cave-dwellers. The earliest known site is Laang Spean cave which occupies the country's northwest region and inhabited by a Neolithic culture that may have migrated from South Eastern China to the Indochinese Peninsula.
Laang Spean cave, it is believed, was first occupied beginning in 7000 B.C. Rice was grown on Cambodian soil since well before the 1st century AD. The inhabitants had developed relatively stable, organized societies. Some historians speculate that these people arrived before their present Vietnamese, Thai, and Lao neighbours.
Cambodia was a powerful trading state. Through increasing trade and contact, through the travels of merchants, diplomats, and learned Brahmins of India, Cambodia became an Indianized state.
By the fifth century, the elite culture of Cambodia was thoroughly Indianized. Language, character symbols, traditions, customs, ceremonies, and political institutions were based on Indian models. The Sanskrit language was widely used.
A group of inland kingdoms called Chenla flourished in the 6th and 7th centuries from southern Cambodia to southern Laos.
The Chenla people of the inland kingdoms, also known as Khmer, from the 6th to the 8th centuries conquered and brought under their control large parts of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand.
A model of the Cambodian Ankor Wat displayed at the CCD Festival
The Khmer Empire (802 AD – 1431 AD) became the largest empire of Southeast Asia, and ruled over great parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Cultural accomplishments, immense political power and wealth, and a variety of belief systems made Cambodia a powerful state. During the golden age of the Khmer Empire, Angkor was the capital. The official religions were Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. Later Theravada Buddhism, brought from Sri Lanka, became the dominant religion.
As far as modern Cambodia, it is recovering from the devastations of the civil war, and the genocide caused by the Khmer Rouge regime. Much progress has been made and people now can live relatively in peace. Tourism has boomed, and millions visit Cambodia each year to see the remnants of its past glory.
Cambodians in Metro Washington are proud of their cultural heritage. They celebrate it with splendor.
Click below to view photographs from the Cambodian Community Day Celebrations held on August 19th 2012:
Images/Photos Credits: Wlliam Kim