Pchum Ben also called “Ancestors’ Day”(which combines the Khmer words “Pchum”,which means “to gather together”, and “Ben”, a “ball of food”) is a Cambodian religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, at the end of the Buddhist lent, Vassa.
In essence, Pchum Ben is the time when Cambodians remember, venerate and pay their respects to deceased relatives of up to 7 generations, by cooking meals for monks and making offerings to the “ghost” of deceased relatives.
Monks chant the suttas in Pali language overnight, continuously, without sleeping, in prelude to the gates of hell opening, an event that is presumed to occur once a year, and is linked to the cosmology of King Yama originating in the Pali Canon. During the period of the gates of hell being opened, ghosts of the dead (preta) are presumed to be especially active, and thus food-offerings are made to benefit them.
Most ceremonies involve processions around temples, crowds wait outside with lit incense in hands meanwhile monks perform rituals inside. There are also symbolic events where five mounds of sand or rice are formed and decorated in an effort to point to Mount Meru, where various Buddhist gods are thought to reside.