Every year on 14 and 15 of the 10th lunar month, Ok Om Bok or Moon Worshipping takes place. It is the biggest festival and most waited for. It is to pray for the whole New Year with favorable weather, successful crops. The Moon is the gods that regulates agriculture activities and helps people get a great harvest. Therefore, every tourist who have a chance to join a culture tour in Mekong delta can also take part in this unique festival of Khmer people. People offer up their special agricultural products and green rice flakes are indispensible.
The ceremony is performed at night, the exact moment when the moon is higher than the tree. The big crowd of people will gather at the pagoda’s yard. The oldest man with the best reputation in the community will take charge by saying praying and showing gratitude to the Moon. He pleads the Moon to accept the offerings and give people good health and good crops. After that, he would give green rice flakes to children and pat on their backs while asking about their wishes for New Year. Khmer people believe that children’s wishes will be great motivations for adults.
After the Moon worshipping ceremony, the morning after comes the celebration part. Ghe ngo’s racing is the most outstanding activity. This is a traditional ritual to send off the Water god to the sea after the harvest. The racing is very exciting with the present of many local people and tourists. Ghe ngo is a very long boat like Naga snake god. Both the front and the back of the boat are curvy. The body of the boat is decorated beautifully with special patterns. An animal head will be attached to the front of the boat. The race is held at big rivers with audience on both sides to cheer for the teams. Other than Ghe ngo’s racing, there ate Co Oc playing, Ram Vong dancing and water lantern made from banana trunks and designed like a colorful temple.
For Khmer people, Ok Om Bok is taken very seriously and respectfully. This long-lasting traditional has been kept for thousand years. Nowadays, it is developed and welcomed by all other groups of people in the country. After all, it is about the hope for a wealthy life and the gratitude towards the creator. In 2014, Ok Om Bok is praised as a National Intangible Heritage. This would give more chances to develop the traditional festival like Ok Om Bok that has been so dear and close to Khmer people’s life.
(By Phan Son)