Pchum Ben, or Ancestor’s Day, is an annual traditional cultural and religious festival in Cambodia. The festival runs for 15 days, usually from the end of September into October. This year, the festival of Pchum Ben has been held from 28 September to 13 October.
This year, ISF students celebrated and learned about the festival. Before telling you the activities we organised, let us explain what Pchum Ben means to Cambodians. It is considered a very important festival during which people bring food to the temple for the monks and to feed hungry ghosts of their late ancestors, relatives or friends. Pagodas are usually crowded with people taking their turn to make offerings and to beg the monks to pray for their late ancestors and loved ones. Many remain behind at the temple to listen to Buddhist sermons.
Cambodia people believed that the ghosts and sinful spirits are afraid of the light. That is why, the festival is held during the waning month of Photerbot (Khmer month) when evil spirits and sinful ghosts are set free by king of death to visit their existing relatives. The king of the death allows them to ascend to the earth to visit their relatives. At their arrival, they will search seven Pagodas for foods that their relatives offer them through the monks.
To celebrate this festival and enable our students to get an understanding of our traditions and how to celebrate the Pchum Ben festival, we took 65 students to the Pagoda close to our school. Twelve teachers went with them to explain the rituals, make sure they dressed respectfully and help them understand the festival. In the pagoda, our students and staff offered the flowers, lit incense to show respect and prayed to the Buddha statue. They then offered food and other items to the monks and helped build up the traditional sand mountain. When they came back from the pagoda, we taught our students about the history of the Pchum Ben festival and then let the students ask questions and share their understanding of this festival after they participated in all these activities.
The students really enjoyed all the activities and were very interested in the festival. They were excited to share what they learned with their friends and their parents as well.
Chap Channsan, Head English Teacher Chbar Ampov