Do you love memories popping up on Facebook … one, five or more years ago? I must say, it’s one of my favourite features and reasons I check social media!
Looking back at our time spent in Siem Reap, learning all about the different culture, so foreign, was part one of the best things about having lived in Cambodia for three years.
The beliefs of Karma are a strong part of the country’s ancient and modern culture. The ceremony of Pchum Ben, Festival of the Dead, unique to Cambodia, falls right in the middle of the monks retreat period (15 days between September and October). Locals take turns to offer food to monks to gain merit for their deceased ancestors. These ancestors, who are stuck in hell are believed to be released by Yama, God of the Dead, for 15 days so they can come to Earth looking for their living relatives. Over this time, it is said that they visit seven different pagodas.
Offerings of rice balls (Bai Ben) with sesame seeds, candles and insense are taken to the pagoda. Locals, dressed in white, the official mourning colour of Cambodia, burn insense to let the hungry ghosts know food has been provided. If the ghosts have not found food by the 7th pagoda, they will be sent back to hell. The vast amounts of food indicate that shouldn’t happen too often. The ceremony consists of hanging Riel bills (1000 Riel is about 10 cents) on a tree-like frame decorated with flowers and jewellery. Monks are happy to fill their bellies, street kids and poor families enjoy this time as well. If you are ever in Cambodia during this time, locals will be more than happy to show you around a pagoda and tell you stories about the Festival.