Thalias Hospitality

Pchum Ben: a Festival of Redemption

Pchum Ben, Cambodia’s most important and impatiently awaited festival, will take place from 24 to 26 September this year. As always, all of Thalias outlets will be keeping our doors open to continue serving you.

Pchum Ben, Cambodia’s most important and impatiently awaited festival, will take place from 24 to 26 September this year. As always, all of Thalias outlets will be keeping our doors open to continue serving you.

The festival’s name literally translates as “gathering of glutinous rice balls,” a reference to the “ben bai” made from rice, sesame, coconut and sometimes beans that are offered to monks who become messengers from the living to the dead.

The rice balls are intended to assuage the suffering of the hungry ghosts, “preta”, of ancestors who may be caught in a purgatory defined by its cruelty and suffering. One of the most torturous aspects of their misery is to spend their days with an empty stomach and a long, narrow throat, like a small straw, that does not let anything through. The offerings may relieve their hunger and bring enough merit to free them from their punishment.

The national holiday will be celebrated after a fortnight of ritual ceremonies, Kan Ben, during which Cambodian families gather to pray and organize offerings.

There is a positive aspect to this because, unlike the thankfully now retired Christian doctrine of purgatory, redemption and mercy are still possible. Every year, the gates of Hell are opened for Pchum Ben and the living work towards the release of the damned who may regain their karma through the actions of their families.

A fusion of animist, Buddhist, Chinese and Hindu traditions, and a reflection of the strong spiritual sensibilities of Cambodia, Pchum Ben is considered unique in the world. For many Cambodians, it is the most anticipated of all festivals, a time to pack their finest clothes and head home to gather with family and friends in the towns and villages where they grew up. We facilitate staff who wish to go home to their families by rotating our teams, which allows us to continue serving you at this important time.

Adapted from an article in Cambodge Mag

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