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Pchum Ben: Cambodian Celebration of Ancestral Respect

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Katie Duncan

Avid traveller living in Phnom Penh

Pchum Ben "balled rice gathering") is a Cambodian 15-day religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, at the end of the Buddhist Lent, Vassa. In 2023, Pchum Bun will begin on October 13 and end on October 16.

The culmination day of Pchum Ben is when Cambodians set out on a unique journey. They go to places where their forefathers once trod and at least three pagodas. Cambodians must be at the pagoda before 11:00 a.m. in order to guarantee that the monks receive their food on time. You know, monks don’t eat after noon, therefore it’s imperative to arrive there before the hour hand chimes 12. Around 4:00 a.m., the day begins as individuals painstakingly prepare food, fruit, and rice. Small food balls are made and carried to the pagoda, where they are gently thrown in front of the temple. The curious thing is that, even in spirit form, some ancestors are thought to be unable to enter the temple, especially those who might have strayed during their lives. They can only eat food made by their offspring. In honor of them, those food balls were created. No one wants these spirits to harbor animosity if they don’t see their relatives bringing them food, according to popular belief.

Bringing It Home: Family Gatherings

The event comes to an end on the fifteenth day, which is considered Pchum Ben’s apex. Then, in October, Cambodians are granted a three-day public holiday to travel back to and visit their hometowns. In addition to pagoda visits, family typically find time to meet together briefly for a meal and some quality time.

A Reminder to Always Respect Your Ancestors

At its foundation, Pchum Ben serves as a potent reminder to carry on the custom of feeding monks and to remember our departed forefathers. Not only do Cambodians visit the pagoda on Pchum Ben, but also on the anniversaries and even birthdays of their ancestors. In addition to teaching the younger generation the value of respecting their family at all times, this age-old holiday also teaches them how to celebrate Pchum Ben. Pchum Ben is not merely a celebration. It’s a sentimental custom that highlights how crucial family, appreciation, and respect are to Cambodian society.

Stay at the Best Hotel in Phnom Penh

If you’re looking for the best hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, look no further than the Ohana Phnom Penh Palace Hotel. Located conveniently by the riverside near many attractions and restaurants, you can’t go wrong booking your next stay in Cambodia with us. Join us on the rooftop for cocktails overlooking the city and Mekong River, or cool down by our shaded lap swimming pool. Stay at the heart of Phnom Penh’s waterfront scenery at the Ohana Phnom Penh Palace Hotel.

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Pchum Ben: Cambodian Celebration of Ancestral Respect

Pchum Ben “balled rice gathering”) is a Cambodian 15-day religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, at the end of the Buddhist Lent, Vassa. In 2023, Pchum Bun will begin on October 13 and end on October 16.

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