Bonn Pchum Ben is the festival held for commemorating the spirits of the dead.
The highlight is on the 15th day of the increasing moon during the tenth month of the Khmer calendar called Pheaktrobotr.
The dates of this festival in 2010 are October 7th, 8th and 9th.
In fact this festival lasts 15 days, each of which is called a day of Kan Ben. A Ben is an offering. The word Ben literally means ball of rice; they are offered to the souls of the dead.
During the first 14 days people take turns offering food to the monks of their local pagoda in the hope that their offering will reach the souls of their ancestors and friends by virtue of the monks' sermons.
Rich and poor
The present-day Bens are balls of glutinous rice, cooked in coconut milk and mixed with various ingredients according to local customs. The way a Ben is held also differs slightly from locality to locality. The final day of Pchum Ben is the most important for all followers. On this day at every pagoda around the country, the mass collection of offerings (Bens) is dedicated to the souls of the people's ancestors. If this duty is ignored it is believed that the soul is cursed and will haunt the neglectful descendents for the rest of the year.
In the early morning of the last day of the Pchum Ben Festival, visitors can join the throngs at the pagodas and take photos of local people of all ages in traditional costumes. Especially women wear their best traditional dresses often made of silk, embroidered blouses and scarves. People offer candles and incenses.
Num Onsam and sweet Num Korm (steamed cakes wrapped in banana leaves) are taken to pagodas during the festival to share among all participants. Num Onsam is a kind of cylindrical cake of glutinous rice wrapped around a mixture of pork, salt and other ingredients. Num Korm is shaped like a pyramid and made of rice-flour and filled with a coconut and palm sugar mixture.
Money offered to monks is spent for the construction or renovation of temples and community development projects such as the construction of bridges, schools and tree planting, or as donations to needy families.
Khmers believe that fraternal feelings are fostered through the exchange of food like Num Onsam and Num Korm cakes. This ensures that visitors to any pagoda during the Pchum Ben festival will be warmly welcomed and invited to taste these cakes and enjoy the festivities.