We arrived at the Khmer Buddhist Temple of Utica at 10am to an already packed house, with carloads of families arriving by the minute. Most carried in trays and trays of food. We snapped some photos of the amazing architecture before making our way inside. It was clear that we were outsiders, as if our hesitation didn’t give us away. However, we were greeted with smiles, nods and wishes of Happy New Year.
There was a period of prayer time. Then came the feast! The monks ate until they were full, then the remainder was shared among community members who sat in small groups on the floor. We were welcomed into a circle and shared some delicious food. Fresh fruit, traditional noodle dishes, meats and more. We were able to speak with people about their experiences in Utica, many of whom were happy to share their stories.
Paul Yin, for one, really enjoys living in Utica. He’s happy, because Utica is a place he could afford to get his own house to fix up. He looks forward to spending the rest of his life here. He says about the Cambodian community in Utica…
The community is small, but we try to bring more business to the city. I hope the city will grow up… In the future, I hope more people will move into the city
Starting Over’s visit to the Cambodian New Year at the Khmer Buddhist Temple was very inspiring. The community was extremely welcoming and genuinely happy to celebrate with us, their new guests. I look forward to working with the community members more as this project evolves!
Check out a sneak peek of the Cambodian New Year in this video preview from The Utica Firefly