Culminating with celebrations across the country on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Cambodian (Khmer) calendar, Pchum Ben (បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ) is one of the biggest and most important religious festivals in Cambodia.
Festivities, food and spending time with the family
Literally, ‘Pchum’ means ‘to gather together’ and ‘Ben’ means ‘a ball of food’. Celebrations are observed for 15 days, with the first 14 days being called ‘Ben Touch’, ‘Kan Ben’ or ‘Dak Ben’ and the last day being referred to as ‘Ben Tom’ or Pchum Ben day.
People across the country use this opportunity to take time off work in order to visit and spend time with their families in the countryside and provinces. They prepare food – from very basic to more elaborate – and visit pagodas where they bring the food and offerings in order to pay respect to their ancestors.
During this period, it is said that the gates of hell are opened and that the ghosts and spirits of the deceased roam the earth searching for food. In order to gain merits, food-offerings are made to the monks who, in turn, help pass it over to the spirits of the deceased relatives. Pagodas are generally bustling with people during the Pchum Ben festival, and it might be useful to book tickets and accommodation early as buses tend to fill up quickly.
Most Khmers are, however, happy to share some of their traditions and whether you want to visit a local pagoda on your own, or if you’re lucky enough to be invited to visit a pagoda with some locals, remember to dress respectfully with shoulders and legs covered.
We wish friends, family, staff, local business partners and everyone celebrating Pchum Ben a very happy and peaceful holiday!
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