Dec 01 2012

Christmas in Phnom Penh

Published by at 11:35 am under Festivals

Being from the northern hemisphere, it used to be difficult for me to equate warm temperatures and bright sunshine with the festive period, but Christmas is growing in popularity in Phnom Penh. From the second week in December, Cambodians will wish you a Happy Merry Christmas. So forget “bah humbug!” — if you’ll be in town in the merry month, here’s our guide on where to buy fake snow, traditional shenanigans and getting in the Christmas spirit.

Baubles to you!

Baubles to you!

Although in this Buddhist country Christmas is not a public holiday, plenty of places embrace the showier side of the season. When it comes to decorations, Phnom Penh‘s only casino Nagaworld reliably goes to (tinsel) town for the festive season. Although we’re not sure which option is cheaper, you can also visit one of the malls to get your fill of glitterly garlands, fake trees and dubious Christmas songs on loop. Listen out for a personal favourite, the Khmer karaoke version of Jingle Bells pumped to the max.

If a tour of the lights are a part of your traditional holiday season, take a twinkly tuk tuk ride around Independence Monument and along Norodom Boulevard, scoping the street outside the Beeline offices (Street 130) before finishing off with the US Embassy’s best efforts by Wat Phnom. Santa delivering presents on a tuk tuk, anyone?

At the top of Santa's Christmas list ...

At the top of Santa’s Christmas list …

If you wish to indulge in some festiveness of your own and decorate your guesthouse room, International Book Centre on Monivong Boulevard has a Christmas department, filled with all things bright, cheap and sparkly. You’ll find Santa hats and even full outfits on stalls along the riverside as well as ‘pop up’ seasonal shops around town. If nothing says Christmas like an inflatable Santa or a fibre optic tree, you’re in luck.

Grotty or grotto? You decide.

Grotty or grotto? You decide.

The Phnom Penh Players’ annual pantomime has become a staple of the city’s Christmas entertainment. A cast of expats — not experts, these guys are strictly amateur — has been taking direction from yours truly to sprinkle around a little magic. With three performances on December 7 and 8, Alice in Pantoland is full of innuendo for the grown-ups and slapstick fun for the kids. If you’ve not had the pleasure of booing the wicked Queen and screaming “He’s behind you!”, maybe it’s time to embrace this British tradition.

On December 9, the Women’s International Group’s Christmas Fair at the Intercontinental Hotel has 70 stalls of jewellery, crafts and seasonal gifts, plus a charity raffle. With a chance to visit Santa Claus and plenty of entertainment, they’ll do their best to help you enter the festive spirit.

The Flicks Community Movie House is now in three locations, and will be offering a selection of film favourites and off-beat choices in December. You could even hire the cinema for a private party and choose your own movie. Stock up on candy canes and popcorn and get stuck into the Baileys at the bar!

We’ll cover a round-up of where to get a Christmas dinner very soon, or see more ideas on how to celebrate a Phnom Penh Christmas with a boat trip or afternoon tea.

WIG Christmas Fair
Intercontinental Hotel, #296 Mao Tse Tung Boulevard, Phnom Penh
$3 entrance for adults, free for children under 12
Sunday December 9, 10:00-17:00

Phnom Penh Players present: Alice In Pantoland
Russian Cultural Centre, Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh
$10 per ticket (available at The Willow, #1 Street 21 and on the door, subject to availability)
December 7, 19:30, December 8 15:00 and 19:30

The Flicks Community Movie House
Flicks 1 – #39b Street 95, BKK3
Flicks 2 – The Empire, #34 Street 130, near riverside
Flicks 3 – Gasolina, #56 Street 57, BKK1

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Christmas in Phnom Penh”

  1. Abigail Gilberton 03 Dec 2012 at 4:58 am

    Street 240, a favourite shopping haunt, is having a Christmas Fair on December 6, 7 and 8th. All the shops will be open until 10pm and there will be some festive fun and promotions involving more than 50 local businesses, including bars, spas, restaurants and boutiques.

  2. Lynn Bensonon 10 Dec 2012 at 7:11 pm


    Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on where I might be able to share a meal or meet up with some expats for some Christmas celebrations. I am actually inquiring for a friend who will be in Phnom Pehn for business and is looking for some things to do after his business partner leaves on the 23rd. Any thoughts on how to get the most out of the celebrations while he is on his own in PP would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  3. Samantha Brownon 13 Dec 2012 at 12:33 pm

    We’ll be posting soon on that Lynn!

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