By: Joanna S. Cabredo
Pchum Ben, also known as, “Ancestors’ Day” is a 15-day religious festival culminating on the 15th day of the October and marks the end of Buddhist Lent.
In the Khmer language, Pchum or Brochum means “a meeting or gathering”. Ben means “a ball of something”, such as rice or meat. It is one of the most important Buddhist festivals in Cambodia as the entire country come together and celebrate with families to pray and remember ancestors.
The first 14 days of the Khmer month Pheakta Bot are called Kan Ben. The 15th day is called Brochum Ben or Pchum Ben Day. During Kan Ben, people give Buddhist monks gifts of food and candles. At night Buddhist monks recite a protective prayer. The 15th day is the culmination of the religious festivity and also the last day of the ceremony.
Praying for ancestors is important for all Cambodians who follow the Buddhist faith. On this national holiday, the faithful pray and prepare cooked meals as offerings for seven generations of deceased relatives. By praying and offering food during Pchum Ben, it is believed that families are helping their ancestors pass on to a better life.
The festival educates younger people on how they should give respect to their relatives. It dates back to the Middle Ages and is among the most important holidays in Cambodia.