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Happy Pchum Ben!

Wishing our Cambodian friends and our friends around the world a Happy Pchum Ben! For those unfamiliar with Pchum Ben, we wanted to highlight its importance to the Khmer people.

Pchum Ben festival is the second biggest celebration for Cambodian people after the Khmer New Year. Starting in the second half of Pheaktroboth – the tenth month in the Lunar calendar – Pchum Ben lasts fifteen days. “Pchum” means to gather, while “Ben” means a ball of rice (sticky rice mixed with sesame and beans and decorated with some flowers.) Pchum Ben is a time when people celebrate their gratitude towards their parents, grandparents, and relatives.

Pchum Ben is also a time for people to express gratitude to their ancestors by offering food to Buddhist monks at their pagodas, as they believe monks can help them transfer food and other items to their ancestors. Generally, people take turns going to the pagodas to ensure monks have enough food during those 15 days when they are not allowed to collect food from people’s houses and must remain at the pagoda.

In addition to gratitude, Pchum Ben is a time to demonstrate the solidarity of the Cambodian people by cooking special cakes together called Num Ansom – steamed rice cakes with bacon and bean or banana rice cakes.

Traditional clothing or white shirts are often worn when visiting the pagodas during Pchum Ben. When at the pagodas, people first offer the monks food, clothing, drinks, or money. Afterward, they pray in front of statues of Buddha and ask for happiness, peace, and prosperity. Following the prayers, they usually stay around the pagoda to socialize with other families. Cambodians typically visit the pagoda a few times during these two weeks, especially on the first and last days of the Pchum Ben festival.

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