Full-moon Festival in Mekong Delta

Published:  20:50 Wednesday - December 29, 2010 The Khmer ethnic people annually celebrated their traditional Ok Om Bok Festival on the full-moon day (15th day) of the middle Winter to shows their gratitude to the Moon Goddess for giving them a bumper harvest and rich aquatic sources.

Ok Om Bok is now a popular festival celebrated not only in Soc Trang but also in other Mekong Delta provinces of Vinh Long, Tra Vinh, Can Tho,Kien Giang and An Giang. In the Khmer belief, the Moon Goddess is theone who cares for the crops, aquatic sources and human life. Alsocalled Festival of Worshipping the Moon, the Ok Om Bok Festival of eachvillage takes place on the yard of a local pagoda, and the wholeprovince’s Ok Om Bok Festival takes place at Ba Om Pond. The festivalis one of the three typical festivals of the Khmer in the circle of oneyear.

Interesting traditional activities...

Ok Om Bok features folk religion originated from Buddhism. The festival opens by a Ngo Boat Race (Um Tuk Ngua in the Khmer language), one of the most attractiveactivities of the Khmers. The race drew hundreds of thousands of Khmerpeople in the region and tourists nationwide. On the noon of the 14thday, on the Long Binh River takes place the exciting Ngo Boat Race inthe echoing sounds of the Five tones of the traditional musical scaleand the resounding encouragement shouts of tens of thousands ofaudiences. The racing teams from different town and districts on theterritory of Tra Vinh Province and neaby provinces bring a noisy andstirring atmosphere for the festival. Ngo Boat Race is both a game anda way to express the strength of consolidation, as well as atraditional ritual to see off the God Water to the ocean after thegrowing season, and a religious ritual of the Khmer to commemorate theSnake God Nagar, who once turned into a lump of wood to help the Buddhacross the river. It is honored as a sacred relic, used only inessential festivals like Ok Om Bok and is kept and preserved carefullyin local pagodas. The boat is about 24 meters long, 1.2 meter wide andis able to hold about 40 people. Sitting in two lines midway along thesides, young Khmer men and women move gently in harmony with the soundsof gongs and waves. As the first boat crosses the finish line, thecrowds on both riverbanks cheer loudly and enthusiastically for theirvictory. Hundreds of people enthusiastically support their favouriteteams and enjoy the race. Attending the festival, you will have achance to watch the jubilant and competitive boat race of the Khmerpeople.

Duringfull-moon the night, Khmer family members gather in front of thecommunal pagoda or their houses and prepare a special feast with greenrice flakes, ripe bananas, fresh peeled coconuts and mangoes to offerto the moon. When the God Moon rises, the offering ceremonybegins with all family members sitting flat on the ground and claspingtheir hands in wait for the moon to rise. An elderly man expressestheir gratitude to the moon and prays for continued good crops and goodhealth. They prayed to the Moon for bumper harvests all the year round,prosperity and happiness. A jubilant atmosphere prevailed over thecelebration sites where large members of people gathered to enjoy folkart performances, including floating flames, flying balloons, and Khmerstage arts of Du Ke and Ro Bam. Then, the village elders will pick uphandfuls of “com dep” to put into the children’s mouths with a wish fortheir strong eating and rapid development (the word Ok om bok literallymeans eating “com dep” by picking up it and put into the mouth). After

Full-moon Festival in Mekong Delta

theceremony, they continue looking at the moon, while receiving green riceflakes from an elderly man and making their wishes. At the festivenights, tourists and locals walk in groups around the ponds and enjoylocal food and buy souvenirs. All seem to forget tiring daily work anddrift with the melodies and sounds of folk songs, diverse instrumentsand dance of the Khmer.

The night becomes more exciting with ethnic games and traditional fashion shows.Some join a contest of flying lanterns and silently contemplate thecolors. A flying lantern is made with a bamboo frame pasted with paper.A tinder is tied under the frame then fired, which makes the lanternfly high in the air. The flying lantern rises higher and higher in amysterious and romantic breeze as if bringing the hopes and beliefs ofthe Khmer people to the Moon God, who is tucking up the clouds to lookdown at the earth. At Ba Om Pond, the ritual of the flying-lanternrelease has become an exciting contest with the participation of tensof pagodas in the province under the encouragement of tens of thousandsof festival participants.

Theevent also features water-lanterns made from bamboo and paper in theshape of a boat with colorful decorations. People make a line with adrum band ahead, whisper their prayers to God and gently droppaper-boats on the water. The river is indulged in peaceful andfanciful scenery. This is also the traditional time for couples to prayfor their love and destiny. The festival celebrations also includedtraditional Khmer rituals and special performances by art troupes fromother provinces. People also flocked to downtown Soc Trang for shoppingat trade fairs and watching traditional sports and games.

Really interesting and meaningful, Ok Om Bok Festival is the most imposing festival in Mekong Delta. Once taking part in, and you will realize...

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