Bits and Bobs from Khmer Creations

Cambodian National Holiday - Pchum Ben September 28 2014, 0 Comments

Festival of the dead

Do you remember the last time you fed the ghosts of your ancestors by throwing a ball of rice through the air? If you answered no, chances are you’re not Khmer.

The hardworking staff of Khmer Creations have been off enjoying a well‑earned break, with many travelling back to their home provinces to celebrate Pchum Ben (Ancestors’ Day), or as we first came to know it, the Festival of the Dead. This 15 day Buddhist festival is unique to Cambodia, not shared by its Buddhist neighbours Thailand or Myanmar, and is one of the most important festivals in Cambodia (along with Khmer New Year of course).

At its heart, this festival is all about honouring your ancestors and paying respects to those who have come before you. Many Khmers will visit a pagoda in order to feed the ghosts of their ancestors, who come to receive food from the living. Upon receiving food, the ancestor ghosts will then bless their living family members. However, should the ghosts visit seven pagodas and not receive an offering from their family, then they will curse them (not a situation you want to be in). The offerings normally consist of Bay Ben, cooked rice formed into small balls in the palm of your hand, which are scattered on to the ground around pagodas. Many Khmer will also make offerings to the Prett (the damned), those deceased who have no family to commemorate them – a particularly touching gesture for a country that has undergone so much suffering.

So if you find yourself in Cambodia in late‑September or early October, visit a pagoda and witness one of the country’s most sacred holidays. Oh, and remember, be nice to the dead!