Before sunrise, appeasing the ghosts

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Through Tuesday Oct. 13, Cambodians will mark Pchum Ben, the annual period of appeasing the spirits of their relatives. Roughly analogous to Halloween in the West, Pchum Ben rituals take place in the dark, generally before sunrise.

As part of the ritual, people cook sticky rice balls called ‘bay ben,’ which they bring to the pagoda as offerings, along with other donations like money and cakes. They scatter the rice offerings on the floor, as a snack for “ghosts” believed to be lurking. On the last day of Pchum Ben, Tuesday Oct. 13 this year, the ‘bay ben’ will be gathered to form a collective offering.

Over the last three days of the holiday, at least 1 million Phnom Penh residents will return to their home villages to pay respect to relatives who passed away.

KT/Fabien Mouret

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