The Pchum Ben Festival in Cambodia is a unique and significant holiday that lasts for 15 days. It is considered one of the most important festivals in the country and is deeply rooted in Cambodian culture and traditions. The festival usually takes place in the tenth month of the Khmer calendar, which falls in September or October in the Gregorian calendar. During this time, Cambodians pay respects to their deceased relatives and believe that the gates of hell open, allowing ghosts known as “hungry ghosts” to roam freely. As a result, offerings of food are made to these ghosts, as well as to Buddhist monks in temples. In rural areas, it is customary to throw rice balls into the air or scatter rice on an empty field as a way to directly “feed” the ghosts.
Pchum Ben is an important religious holiday that holds great significance for Cambodian families. It is a time for them to honor and remember their deceased ancestors. Buddhists visit pagodas to make offerings on behalf of their deceased relatives, including food, money, flowers, and clothes. These offerings are believed to bring blessings to the living relatives and ensure the wellbeing of their ancestors in the afterlife. Sticky rice balls, known as Bay Ben, are also offered to hungry ghosts as another way to nourish them.
The tradition of Pchum Ben has been passed down from generation to generation and holds a special place in Cambodian society. Many Cambodians travel to their hometowns during this time to celebrate with their families and participate in the rituals. Foreigners are also welcome to observe the festivities by visiting local pagodas; however, it is important to dress respectfully and adhere to the customs and traditions of the festival.
The Pchum Ben Festival is a time of reverence, remembrance, and celebration in Cambodia. It not only allows Cambodians to honor their ancestors but also serves as a way to connect with their cultural heritage and strengthen family bonds.