Pchum Ben Festival: Explore Cambodian Spiritual Significance

By Jenna Jolie

Pchum Ben Day is one of the most significant festivals observed in Cambodia, a stunning nation with a rich cultural heritage and natural surroundings. If you intend to visit Cambodia during Pchum Ben Day, make sure to get your e-visa in advance, as it is necessary for entrance. 

What Is Pchum Ben Day?

Pchum Ben, which falls on the 15th day of the 10th Khmer month this year, begins on October 13 and kicks off a 15-day religious holiday in Cambodia. Cambodian Buddhists believe that their ancestors' souls are liberated for 15 days every year. Pchum Ben represents the beginning of souls' trip to purgatory, that realm between heaven and hell. Their karma and the gifts offered by their surviving family on Pchum Ben will determine the path they choose. This event kicks up towards the end of Buddhist Lent. During this period, delicacies are prepared for the monks in order to generate virtues for the departed.

Pchum Ben is a 15-day religious holiday in Cambodia

Pchum Ben is a 15-day religious holiday in Cambodia

What is Pchum Ben also called?

In English, the festival is also referred to as "Ancestors Day," and the Khmer term "Ben" can mean either gathering food to present to priests or dividing cooked rice into portions. Families in Cambodia value the celebration because it brings them back together after an extended absence. The name "Pchum Ben" means to collect and make a ball of sustenance, signifying the significance of parents.

When Is Pchum Ben?

The festivities for the 15-day Pchum Ben religious holiday in Cambodia take place on the fifteenth day of the tenth month of the Khmer calendar. Pchum Ben Day is one of the festival's concluding three days, which are regarded as a public holiday in Cambodia. Depending on the Khmer calendar.

Pchum Ben Day generally occurs in September or October on the Gregorian calendar. 

  • 2023 - Pchum Ben Day will be observed from October 13 to October 16 in 2023. 
  • 2024 - It will be observed from October 1 to October 2, 2024. 
  • 2025 - It will be observed from September 21 to September 23, 2025. 

Before making travel arrangements to Cambodia, it is advisable to check the dates because Pchum Ben Day is open to change.

What was Pchum Ben's initial purpose?

Pchum Ben is a 15-day event in which Cambodians celebrate their ancestors from the seven preceding generations. During the first 14 days, known as "Kan Ben," families assemble at surrounding pagodas, bringing food and prayers to their ancestors in order to spare them from ill karma.

Cambodians celebrate their ancestors during Pchum Ben

Cambodians celebrate their ancestors during Pchum Ben

Pchum Ben Day celebration

Why do Cambodians celebrate Pchum Ben Day?

Pchum Ben, the name of the celebration, is a combination of the Khmer words for "a ball of food" and "to gather together," respectively. The spirits of Cambodian ancestors are said to join their surviving relatives during this period. Giving food to the forefathers is a way to give them nourishment for their spiritual path and to ask for favors for the surviving members of the family.

How to celebrate Pchum Ben?

Pchum Ben Day is observed in Cambodia in the following ways:

  • Visit Pagodas: Cambodians make offerings of food, flowers, and candles to their forefathers at pagodas and sanctuaries. Prayers are chanted by monks, and people seek favors and earn credit.
  • Prepare Cambodia Traditional Foods: During Pchum Ben, sticky rice cakes are a traditional dish made and given to priests and unfortunate individuals.
  • Family Reunions: Pchum Ben is a time when families can reunite after a protracted absence. Cambodians frequently visit their hometowns to visit relatives and share food.
  • Participate in Religious Activities: Cambodians engage in religious practices like washing Buddha sculptures, giving to charities, and attending lectures.

Pchum Ben traditional food

The customary dish, "nom onsam," or sticky rice cake, is frequently prepared and given during Pchum Ben. Sticky rice and coconut milk are used to make nom onsam, a confection that is frequently served with banana leaves.

The "num kom" rice cake, which comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures and is another popular food in Cambodia, is covered in banana leaves. Num kom is a crucial dietary item during Pchum Ben.

Travel tips for travelers who plan to visit Cambodia during Pchum Ben Day

Here is some advice for tourists visiting Cambodia on Pchum Ben Day. It is crucial to gather additional information and make appropriate plans based on one's tastes and travel requirements, it can be including Cambodia travel insurance in advance for your trip.

  • Dates: The lunar calendar is used to determine the days on which Pchum Ben Day is observed. It occurs between October 13 and October 16 in 2023. It is advised to confirm the precise times before making travel arrangements to Cambodia during this event.
  • Pagoda Visits: As a show of reverence, it is advised to wear white clothes if you intend to visit a pagoda during this holiday. However, shaving your cranium is not required.
  • Festive Atmosphere: Pchum Ben Day is a significant holiday for the Cambodian people, so the entire nation will be in a celebratory mood during this time. At different pagodas, you can take in traditional rituals, cultural displays, and local delicacies. During this period, it is advised to show reverence for and awareness of regional practices and customs.
  • Weather in Cambodia: September is usually a wet month in Cambodia, so it's best to pack rain boots and water-resistant footwear. Additionally, it is advised to bring sunscreen and bug protection due to the possibility of insects and humid weather.
  • Booking transportation and lodging well in advance is advised for Pchum Ben Day due to the festival's popularity and the number of locals who journey back to their hometowns to enjoy themselves with their families. It's also a good idea to have extra currency on hand because some ATMs might run out of money at this time. You can easily take a quick look at our Car Pick-up and Hotel Booking services for those days.

It is simple and practical to obtain a Cambodia e-visa, and you can do so by submitting an online application via the website of the Cambodia Immigration Services. You can journey to Cambodia without hassle on Pchum Ben Day and take part in the rich culture and customs of this stunning nation thanks to the e-visa.

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