“Okay, guys, let’s do it just one more time. The ending was a bit messy,” Sarim Pin urged the other dancers. As the lively, instrumental music began to play, 10 dancers took their places to start again. Since December, these dancers have been practicing almost every weekend to perform for their New Year celebration. They are members of a small student organization at the University of Minnesota called the Cambodian Student Association of Minnesota (CSAM).
While New Year’s Day is celebrated for a single evening, this holiday is given much more importance in Cambodia. Every April, children and adults look forward to the most anticipated holiday of the year, in which 3 days are devoted to festivities.
Not surprisingly, Cambodian New Year 2008 is CSAM’s showcase event of the year. “It’s the biggest celebration in Cambodia and we want to bring it here and share it with other cultures,” says Alexander Sok, a public relations officer for CSAM.
One member, Boramy Kim, feels the holiday is an important occasion for Cambodian-American families and individuals to take pride in their heritage. “It’s a meaningful time to come together as a family to celebrate both the blessing of a New Year and traditional culture.”
Through this celebration, CSAM hopes to unite the Cambodian-American community in the Twin Cities, especially in terms of bridging the gap between the older and younger generations. Sarim Pin, the president of the organization, feels strongly about this. “I hope people will see that we, as Cambodian students, are still holding on to our culture and traditions even though most of us here are second-generation Cambodians in the United States.”
Furthermore, CSAM wants to reach out and include the University community and the general public in the celebration. “Through sharing our food, our music, our dancing, our traditional fashion, and our stories, we want to inform and entertain members of the larger community who may not be familiar with Cambodian culture. After all, Asians and Asian-Americans represent a whole spectrum of unique, distinct cultures,” says Mary-Ann Em, vice president of CSAM.
The celebration will take place on Saturday, April 5th, 2008, at the North Star Ballroom on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. Free to the public, the event features authentic Cambodian food, a program of cultural performances, and a Cambodian live band for dancing. Doors open at 6 pm and will last until midnight.
For more information, please contact the Cambodian Student Association of Minnesota at firstname.lastname@example.org.