Pchum Ben Festival

Pchum Ben is one of the oldest and the most culturally significant religious festivals for Cambodian Buddhists, a fifteen-day period dedicated to blessing the spirits of the dead.  The traditional teaching is that during this time the gates of life after death are opened and the spirits are free to roam among the living to receive food offerings given to them at pagodas, especially early in the pre-dawn hours when the monks chant religious teachings.

The last three days of Pchum Ben are public holidays and most people make it a point to return to their home provinces and villages to honor their ancestors with their larger family.  This year the three public holidays start tomorrow and the impending holiday was noted by the disruption caused by so many people on the move.

The most noticeable change in life in the city because of Pchum Ben is the traffic. Many people left town early because the transportation companies greatly inflate their prices in the days immediately before and after the holidays. Here an overloaded van heads north out of Phnom Penh. Notice the man on top.
Normally it takes me twenty minutes to get from the Maryknoll office to St. Joseph Church for the 10:00 AM Sunday mass. Today it took one hour as thousands of vehicles crowded the roads and bridges leading out of town.
In a quieter area of Phnom Penh, this man was delivering a load of lotus blossoms which will be used in offering ceremonies in the wats or temples.
Somewhat oblivious to all the traffic the tourists enjoy a late breakfast undisturbed by the lines of vehicles crowding the streets.
By late morning when I was passing by, this wat had few devotees, but early in the morning, starting about 4:00 AM, hundreds of people came to throw sticky rice balls around to feed the hungry ghosts of their ancestors. On Wednesday, the last day of Pchum Ben, the temples will again be crowded during the day.
This tailor shop is like many of the business establishments, all shuttered up while the owner/occupant and his family are in the province for the festival.
This little tire repair shop stayed open and even offered some festival gift packages that can be offered in the pagodas.