Monday, October 10, 2011

Pchum Ben

 Pchum Ben is a Cambodian holiday that is related to the Buddhist religion. The holiday is for Cambodians to pay respects to their deceased ancestors. The basis for the holiday is that the gates of Hell open and their ancestors who are there need to be fed, so they go to the pagoda very early in the morning to "throw sticky rice". 

We got up at 2:30 a.m. Yes, A.M. We saw a text that we didn't actually have to get up until 3. So I went back to bed, and Hal stayed up. We met another volunteer at the end of our street because her host mom wouldn't let her out that early without making sure that she wasn't going alone. We road about a kilometer down to my teacher's house where we met about 10 other people and we rode off to the pagoda. Have you ever looked at the stars in a small Cambodian village at 3 am? I wish I could have captured it in a picture, it was the most amazing sky I've ever seen.

We got to the pagoda around 3:30 and apparently were the first ones there, so we ended up waking all of the monks up. We waited in the pagoda for a while with nothing really happening except more people arriving. Around 4 they started the chanting. Sometimes I wonder if even Cambodians can understand the chanting.

After about 20 minutes of some men chanting, we joined the monks in a different temple within the pagoda grounds. Everyone put their plates of sticky rice down and then the monks started chanting. After about another 20 minutes of chanting the fun began.
Surrounding this temple were about 10 of these baby sized temples with small boxes next to them where you toss the sticky rice. Hal and I got our own place of sticky rice balls to throw in the boxes.
It was a really cool experience to get up that early and to take part of an important religious holiday. Pchum Ben is one of the top holidays here in Cambodia. It's what I call the equivalent of Thanksgiving for Cambodians because everyone comes "home" for 3 days. Pchum Ben actually lasts 15 days, but the last 3 days are the most important, and it's what everyone comes home for. I loved meeting all of my yay's (host grandmother) children. Now that we're at permanent site with our new family, I am so glad that I was able to spend that holiday with the family that I had grown to love for 2 months. We're already planning our trip back to visit. Our yay told us we must come during mango season. mmm mangoes.


Leah Mortenson said...

Totally agree with you about the stars that night. There really is nothing like a Cambodian sky at 3:00 AM. Hope you both are well! xo

Maddie said...

Wow, it looks like you guys are having such an enriching time already!! I'm so jealous!

Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

My goodness, it's so interesting to read your posts and learn what your learning.

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

That sounds really interesting because I had no idea they did this. It sounds like you are having an amazing time there.

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