October was, of course, a sad month here in Cambodia. King Norodom Sihanouk passed away on October 15. The king was living in Beijing, China at the time of his passing. King Sihanouk was a much beloved monarch of the Cambodian people and saw the country through many trying periods. We send our prayers and thoughts to all the Cambodian people and wish them a bright, healthy and happy future. For more on King Sihanouk’s life click here
On a happier note, October was the celebration of the Pchum Ben Festival. This annual 15-day festival is a time when Khmer people honor their deceased relatives. Prayers and offerings are made during the entire 15-day period. The culminating celebration takes place on the 15th day of the 10th month in the Khmer calendar. On the final night, monks chant continously, Supposedly, this time represents a prelude to the gates of hell opening and a time when the spirits, or ghosts, become very active. It is believed that offering food helps the ghosts; some ghosts will end their damnation and others will temporarily escape only to return for more suffering. The offerings and prayers may also benefit those relatives in heaven. In Banteay Chhmar, some families with have a ceremony in their house in addition to going to the pagoda to give an offering to the monks.
Finally, to end on another happy note. Little Chamroun Sondey celebrated his fourth birthday on October 11th with a fun-filled party. Sondey is the nephew of Soeung Savy, one of the CBT’s cooks. All the children and adults had a marvelous time making balloons, eating cake and singing ‘Happy Birthday.’