Gods go hungry
July 14, 2008, 2:46 am
Filed under: Social Issues

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Gods go hungry

The Phnom Penh Post, Friday, 27 June 2008

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couple of nights ago, I had a nightmare that my house was on fire and everything was burned to ashes. I woke up in the middle of the night and told my wife my strange dream.

Deemed a bad omen for the family, my wife spontaneously warned me not to forget to light three incense sticks and throw away a handful of rice in the morning. As believed by many Cambodians, people think that this practice will get rid of bad luck after a nightmare.

With a lackadaisical belief in superstitions, I told my wife that I was not going to throw away more rice just because of a nightmare anymore.

“What if we all have nightmares everyday, how much expensive rice will be wasted?” I asked.

In fact, other Cambodians have also experienced a similar dilemma as to how much food they should offer to appease the ghosts or do merit making to please the gods.

In Cambodia, people observe several festivals and ceremonies such as the Khmer New Year, Bon Phchum Ben for spirits of the dead, merit-making Kathin processions, fundraising Bon Phkar, and numerous other traditional and religious activities throughout the year.

During these occasions, the people would offer money and meals to the monks and offer food to the spirits so that the dead can be born in a happy world and the living can be blessed with happiness and prosperity in return.

However, the rising food price has greatly affected these traditional and religious practices. Monks at various monasteries throughout the country have also received less food offered by followers who can not afford to buy as much good food they used to do before.

During the recent grave raising ceremony, many Cambodians of Chinese ancestry also reduced the size of roast pigs and the number of boiled chickens they offered to the spirits due to the rising food price.

Because of the high food costs, many people have cut short their old practices or abandoned some of them altogether.

In the case of my nightmare, I decided to revise old people’s advice to young children in dealing with an unpleasant dream.

They told us to make a plea when we were dropping the calling card by saying: “Oh s**t, please take away my nightmare and bad luck with you!”

Of course, there was no answer. But I would take it as a yes with a nod in response.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Phnom Penh

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