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Sabaidee Pee Mai Lao & Chaul Chnam Thmey
(Happy Lao & Khmer New Year 2007)
Photographs by Randy Magnus
This collection of photographs was taken during the Lao & Cambodian New Year Celebrations in the Central Valley of California. I spent day three, known as Sangkhan Kheun, with the Lao community as they arrive at Wat Lao Buddharangsy dressed in traditional clothes, carrying containers of traditional food from their home country of Laos.
The Miss Pi Mai Lao (Miss Lao New Year) has been decided, she is the one who gets to hold the four-faced sculpture representing the head of King Kabinlaphom. Her court, representing his seven daughters, preside over the activites that follow, including the blessing of the food, posing before Buddha, eating noodles and meatballs, being blessed with water, parade around the property three times, the dancing, the washing of Buddha and of the monks, and the Baci Ceremony where they are blessed while being connected by string.
The monks even recite a blessing for you as they tie a piece of string around your wrist.
The Cambodians have a food blessings, prayers, live traditional music, and dance.
So enjoy the colors and the layers of culture these communities have brought with them from Southeast Asia. For many of the younger ones, these festivities on these temple grounds in the Central Valley of California is a celebration of a country they have not personally experienced. It makes the preservation of these events all the more important.
Sabaidee Pee Mai Lao at Wat Lao Buddharangsy in Ceres, California, 2007.
Chaul Chnam Thmey (Khmer New Year) in both West Modesto and in Stockton, California, 2007.
Randy Magnus grew up in the Central Valley farmlands of California, and saw the cultural diversity that came into the area as the population grew. He learned to celebrate what the different cultures had to offer in the arts, food, and lifestyles. With his cameras Randy would document the cultural celebrations, showing the pride in what sets each culture apart, perserving a part of their unique heritage to share with others. Randy Magnus has work in several museums, including MOMA in New York City, the Oakland Museum, and the Achenbach Print Collection at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. He has had one-man shows in San Francisco, New York, and Amsterdam. .