Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival • illuminaija
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Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival

   
   

Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival

Bon Om Touk, or the Cambodian Water & Moon Festival, is a Cambodian festival celebrated in November, sometimes ending in late October.

Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival

It marks the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. It corresponds to the lunar Mid-Autumn Festival.

The Water Festival takes place all over Cambodia every year. 

Origin

The Water Festival was first celebrated in the 12th century, around the time of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII. 

   
   

The King’s Navy helped in the Cambodian fishing season. The festivities made the gods happy and secured good harvests of rice and fish in the upcoming year.

Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival

Another story is that Bon Om Touk was a way for the King to prepare his navy for battle. 

There are carvings at Bayon Temple, at Banteay Chmear that show naval battles similar to the boat races in present-day celebrations.

The festival is celebrated in every province, but many Cambodians make a special trip from the provinces to the capital city, Phnom Penh.

In Phnom Penh, people gather for big boat races, illuminated floats a moon salutation, and eating of special rice made with banana or coconut juice. 

Many people spend all their time at the boat races, finding a spot along the river, laying out a picnic mat, eating and drinking, and cheering for their teams.

Boat race participants usually arrive a few days before to practice along the Tonle Sap River. The boats are often sponsored by individual donors and government officials.

At night, after the races, people are seen floating small, handmade boats in the river along with many, many floating candles.

Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival

Different government ministries create their own larger illuminated boats.  

Later in the evening, there are beautiful fireworks displays that last for about 20 minutes.

What to do during the Water Festival?

It is a national three-day holiday, so many Cambodians spend the time celebrating with their families. 

They go to see the boat racing and some travel around the provinces to see how the festival is celebrated there.

Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival

Bon Om Touk | Celebrating The Annual Water & Moon Festival

   
   

The second night of the Water Festival is a moon, so, many celebrate and pray to the moon by putting things like fruits, coconuts and special rice in front of their houses. 

They believe that by doing so, the moon will give them good luck.

   
   

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