Here in Cambodia, the Chinese New Year is one of the most celebrated “unofficial” holidays.
Days before it actually happens, the Khmer people begin to make special preparations – cleaning up and decorating their homes with lanterns, shopping for ingredients needed for the special feast, & just basically fulfilling age-old traditions that will ensure an auspicious welcome the coming year.
Part of this tradition is having a shrub that grows a beautiful yellow flower called angkea sel. This shrub, which resembles a Japanese cherry blossom, is believed to bring in good fortune if it blooms & blossom in the first few days of the Chinese New Year.
Right now, certain streets here in Phnom Penh are riddled with vendors of this must-have flora. It is quite interesting that there can be 8 to 12 sellers within a 30 meter stretch, all providing the supplies needed for the growing demand of the occasion. And when the demand is greater than the supply, prices of these precious plants are beginning to increase daily as the New Year races closer.
But it doesn’t matter, because the people here in Cambodia (like in any other country or community) loves their traditions. They will surely get hold of the angkea sel just to make sure that they will be able to secure a better future in the Year of the Metal Rabbit.
And as for me, a non-local, it is just wonderful to know that a plant can hold more meaning and hope beyond it’s God-given beauty.