Cambodia honours its ancestors
When your visit coincides with a festival, not only do you get to join in the fun, but as Intrepid’s Paul Chea explains, it’s a special opportunity to enjoy a real taste of local life…
“I would like to invite you to my home – Cambodia – in October for one of the most important festivals in the Khmer calendar. We call this celebration Pchum Ben, and its literal translation is “gathering and offering of food”.
This is when we spend time with our families preparing food and offering it to the spirits of our ancestors, and the hungry ghosts who walk the earth during this time.
The exact dates vary year to year according to the Khmer lunar calendar, but it’s normally around late September to mid October. In 2012 the festival falls on 14-16 October.
Pchum Ben was celebrated in ancient times as well as today. You can see engravings on the walls of Angkor Wat which relate to Pchum Ben. The festival was originally celebrated for three months, but has been shortened to 15 days as modern lifestyle makes 3 months of celebration complicated.
During the 15 days remaining, most of the elders bring food to the temple for monk offerings. It is customary also to offer a special Cambodian cake made from sticky rice with coconut, yellow beans and pork wrapped with banana leaf and put it in a big steamed pot to cook.
The final 3 days are usually public holidays, when most Khmers would like to visit their homeland for a reunion. From the first day of Pchum Ben, you will see many people wearing Khmer traditional clothes, with plenty of food and drinks ready to offer to the monks at the pagoda. In addition, traditional Khmer music is played throughout the countryside. These activities are repeated until the last day of Pchum Ben.
Travel on an Intrepid trip or Urban Adventures around the 15th day of the 10th month of the Khmer Calendar and experience a taste of life and culture while my people celebrate this spiritual festival.”
Photo: Pchum Ben, Cambodia, by Paul Chea.