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Pchum Ben a festival for the ancestors’

Pchum Ben, the ancestors’ festival, is a Cambodian religious festival celebrated by Buddhists. It is one of the longest festivals in Cambodia, lasting for 15 days. A Ben is an offering. The first 14 days are called Kan Ben, where villages take turns making offerings, and the last day is Ben Thom, great offering, where all families make offerings. Pchum Ben is celebrated every year in the beginning of the 10th month, Phutrobot, of the Khmer calendar. (Around October in the western calendar.)

During the fourteen days of Kan Ben villages take turns bringing food to the temples and the pagodas.

The last four days of Pchum Ben are public holidays in Cambodia and most Khmer people will visit the province where they were born for family reunions.

The fifteen day, Ben Thom, is the special day when all families bring overflowing baskets of flowers, and children offer food, sticky rice cake and presents to the monks.

It is a colorful festival and everyone is dressed in their best clothes, women wear bright colored silk scarves, blouses and dresses. During the festival special rice offerings are made that are called ‘Bay Bens’. Bay Bens are balls of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk with various ingredients depending on local customs.

Cambodians celebrate Pchum Ben because they believe that after death they become ghosts whose earthly actions shape their appearance and that they walk the earth at this time. Everyone prays to help their ancestors pass on to a better life. According to Khmer belief, people who do not follow the practices of Pchum Ben will be cursed by angry ancestors. The living relatives ease their sufferings by offering them food. People also make offerings of money, dresses and other items to the monks in the temples. The offerings made are shared by the poor and the disabled during Pchum Ben and the donors acquire merit to cancel out past sins.

In this year Pchum Ben is on Friday to Sunday, 26 to 28 September 2014

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