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Services and Annual Celebrations
While the calendar that lists the festivals for the Watt contains around ten events per year, the Watt Munisotaram actually celebrates many holy days each month. Mostly older community members along with the monks observe all these holy days. And if the holy day falls on a weekday, the Watt will move the actual celebration to the weekend, which is standard practice for convenience of the Watt worshippers to allow them to carry day jobs.
Most people who frequent the temple are first or second generation Cambodians or other South and Southeast Asian Theravada Buddhists from the Twin Cities area who travel to the Watt on weekends to pray, meditate, hear a sermon from a monk, or participate in a Khmer singing, chanting, or dance group. People also go to the temple to mark life cycle events, including births, marriages, deaths, as well as to seek blessings and spiritual advice from monks or priests. During the week the temple is usually very quiet but monks or priests are generally available to offer assistance with any personal or spiritual issues.
Below are descriptions of events that the temple celebrates annually.
Watt Munisotaram Events
Mid-February: Meakha Puja
This holiday is observed to commemorate four auspicious events:
Mid-April: Cambodian New Years
The New Year is celebrated in during the first full moon in April because in Cambodia it coincides with the end of the rice-harvesting season, allowing farmers to enjoy the holiday without worrying about the harvest. A big part of the celebration is the arrival of the angel, who comes to take care of the world for a year. People also visit the temples and monasteries, bath Buddha statues, offer prayers and worship the Buddha, and perform various traditions and rituals to welcome the New Year. This three-day celebration is also marked by popular games, dances, and performance of music.
Late May: Visakha Puja
Visakha Puja is a major Buddhist festival that celebrates the birth, enlightenment (nirvana) and death (Parinirvana) of the Buddha during the day of the full moon in May.
Late September or Early October: Kan Binda and Pchum Binda (Ancestor's Day)
Pchum Binda is a festival in which Cambodians pay respects to deceased relatives. This Buddhist festival exists only in the Cambodian Buddhist tradition. For 15 days, people visit temples to offer alms and request religious services to dedicate merits to the dead.
October: Kathina Ceremony
This ceremony is held annualy in October to offer new robes and other necessities to the monks.
November: Reading of King Vessanthara's Story
The Watt Munisotaram community recites all 13 chapters of the story and eat special rice with coconut and banana. There is also an illuminated boat procession on the reflection pond.