Full Moon Festival

Peace Corps probably should have included in the welcome book we got before coming to Cambodia that you will be confused 95% of the time.  I seem to never know what is going on.  I figured that once I understood the language a little better, I would know what was going on… nope, not true!  We celebrated the full moon festival this week.  Peace Corps had done a good job with teaching us about Khmer holidays, but my family is part Chinese, so we celebrate both Khmer and Chinese holidays.  So basically I had no idea what was going on the whole time.

It all started on Wednesday.  My host mom had told me that she was going to Phnom Pehn because her niece was engaged.  She comes back at around 7:00 pm and everyone runs outside.  I follow them and see my host mom shoved inside this van with 5 boxes and bags of flowers.  It looked like she had gone to Sam’s Club.  Now in Cambodia gas is super expensive, so even though my host family has a car, they rarely use it and my host mom took a big van to Phnom Pehn.  So she crawls out of this 10 passenger van with at least 8 other people, a moto, and a ton of boxes inside.  It was crazy!  We helped unload everything and bring things inside.  Now at this point, I’m so confused.  She said she was going to Phnom Pehn because her niece was engaged.  Was she getting married at our house?  It wasn’t wedding season yet!  My host mom opens her boxes and out comes a ridiculous amount of fruit and cakes.  In my broken Khmer I try to ask what is all of this food for.  They say something about the moon and something will happen tomorrow.  Alright, I’ll just have to be patient.

The next day I come back from the market to see my host mom filling plates with beautifully arranged fruit and cake on plates.  She divides them up, and places them on the many altars around our house.  I think I ask if they are offerings for their ancestors, and she says that no they are for the gods, which of course confuses me even more.  Do Buddhists  believe in gods?  Why didn’t I pay more attention in world religion class?

One of the altars with the offerings

One of the altars with the offerings

My host mom lighting candles

My host mom lighting candles

Getting the offerings up to another altar

Getting the offerings up to another altar

After the altars are all pretty, I run upstairs and read for about an hour.  I come back down, and all of the food has disappeared!  What?  Now my family had told me that the cakes were very expensive for Khmer standards, so why would this food be gone?  There was no sign of it anywhere!  I tried to ask where it went, but my host family just laughed at me and said something about tomorrow night and the moon.  Did the gods eat them?  Did the dogs jump up and grab the food?  Did my family stealthily eat the 4 boxes of food in an hour without me noticing?  Aut dung te!  (I don’t know!)

1761814870_03bae27b04

The full moon

The next night everything is normal, until after dinner.  My host sisters move our dining room table outside, and my host mom brings out another box filled with more unopened cakes, and starts putting them on plates.  They bring the food outside, and set up the table with candles.  They explain that because its the full moon, they offer the food to the gods.  My host family prays and lights some incense, and then the table and the food go back to the house.  We got to eat some of the fancy cakes and fruit.  It was a fun, albeit very confusing first holiday in Cambodia.  I still have no idea where all of the original food went, but maybe next year I’ll find out :).

The fancy offerings

The fancy offerings

Lighting incense

Lighting incense

My host mom and I

My host mom and I

My host sister praying

My host sister praying

My host sister and I

My host sister and I

My younger host sister and I

My younger host sister and I

Advertisements

One thought on “Full Moon Festival

  1. It does sound confusing. I love mysteries though. Some day you will say ‘Ohh I get it now.’ We get lots of holidays here too with not too much of an idea why people are celebrating. Of course Spaniards love any excuse to have a holiday. Lots of food disappears, but I know where it goes. Our current mystery is whether we will get trick or treaters. There are costumes and some candy for sale but I don’t know how widespread it is. All Saints day is much bigger, businesses will close for that. (You did know that All Saints day is also called All Hallows day, hence all hallows eve was when demons and witches would wander the earth.) The French adults were frightened of all hallows eve (Halloween) when I was there 30 years ago. Sounds like you are starting to understand the language. I remember being so disappointed that learning a language took so long and somehow I thought I would be finished learning it after a few months. I was so dumb. This time is easier in some ways, even with an old brain. I remember some of the stages, recognize that ‘dumb as a post’ feeling and know that it will go away soon. I may be less embarrassed to make mistakes now too. I know that my listeners are rooting for me to communicate and working as hard as I am to understand. My brain still gets tired though. Keep up the good work and know that we are praying for you. Love you lots.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s