Our team are preparing to take several days off to celebrate one of the most important religious festivals of the year, Pchum Ben.
Pchum Ben has been practiced in Cambodia since the 1800s, during the Ang Doung Dynasty in the Udoung period. Pchum Benh (literally ‘sticky rice ball’) is the last 15 days of the monks’ 3 month rainy retreat (‘joal vassa’). It is a uniquely Khmer holiday, which finds its roots in the traditional Buddhist offering of food to monks while they dedicate their time to chanting and meditation for the duration of ‘joal vassa’.
The festival is celebrated by the coming together of family members to honour and celebrate ancestors’ spirits. Over time, it has also come to be believed that for the last 15 days of the monks’ retreat the gates of hell are opened, offering ‘hungry ghosts’ an opportunity to roam the earth looking for food.
It is believed the ghosts are hungry because they either do not having living relatives to offer food to their memory throughout the year, or they have bad karma that has cursed them to an eternity of hunger. Cambodian people believe that if these ghosts are not able to find food that has been dedicated to them during Pchum Benh they will curse those who have failed to feed them. To sate these hungry ghouls and save their souls people then go to the pagoda before sunrise, where they listen to the monks chanting and throw around sticky rice balls for the ghosts to eat. Each rice ball is handmade with love, compassion, and full of merits, and given in honour of late loved ones.
During this holiday season, Cambodians have to visit 7 different pagodas within the 15 days, all culminating in 3 days of feasting, food offerings, and family time on the last three days of the holiday (this year 19th, 20th and 21st September).
To honour this important cultural and spiritual festival, and to give our team the time to visit their families – we will be closed between 18th and 22nd September, and will not be offering any tours during this period. Thank you for understanding!