If you do a google search for Cambodian New Year, you might see it described as “a three day holiday in celebration of the Lunar New Year.” But in Lowell, the New Year celebration truly lasts all month long–and on April 9th Mayor William Samaras declared it as so, with the issuing of the proclamation announcing “Cambodian Month” in the City of Lowell at the annual Khmer Flag Raising at City Hall.
The Khmer Flag raising ceremony is co-hosted annually by the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association and the Lowell Community Charter Public School. The festivities began with LCCPS students performing the traditional chayyam procession. The Kindergarten class from the school then sang both the U.S. and Cambodian national anthems to begin the proceedings.
Susie Chhoun served as the morning’s master of ceremonies and noted, “As a citizen of this great city, and as a Cambodian-American, I know that April is the month to be in Lowell!”
Next to speak were the heads of the two partner organizations hosting the morning’s celebration, Nicholas Leonardos, the executive director of the LCCPS and Sovanna Pouv of the CMAA.
During his remarks, Mayor Samaras touched on a number of topics, including the new Khmer Refugee monument in City Hall plaza, which was dedicated last fall. “Ever since the first Cambodian family came to Lowell in 1979, this community has become an indelible part of the fabric of Lowell.”
Following the presentation of the proclamation to the event hosts, vice chairman Vesna Nuon addressed the audience, highlighting the contributions of several community leaders. Vesna Nuon is the first Cambodian American to serve as the vice chair of the Lowell City Council.
Among the people highlighted in Councilor Nuon’s remarks was former Lowell City Councilor Rithy Uong. In addition to being the first Cambodian American to serve on the Lowell City Council, Uong was a founding board member for Lowell Community Charter Public School.
Following the speeches, LCCPS students performed traditional Cambodian dance and music routines.
Following the flag raising, Susie Chhoun shared with the students the process of building the Khmer Refugee monument. The monument was designed by local artist, Yary Livan, and the funds for the monument were privately raised over the period of several years.
The City Hall flag raising is far from the only Cambodian New Year celebration in Lowell this month. The Cambodian American Student Association at UMass Lowell will be holding a student-led event on Saturday, April 14th at University Crossing from 6:00-10:00 p.m. The following Saturday, April 21st will be the annual celebrations at the Lowell Senior Center (8:30-11:00) and Clemente Park (12:00-5:00) with a parade between the two venues.