Last year, in my post about Chinese New Year, I described some of the interesting traditions observed by Cambodians of Chinese heritage. Sadly we didn't get to see any Lion Dances this year (a personal favourite of mine) which you can read about (and link to a video) by clicking on that link. And as I've written previously, Chinese New Year is surprisingly popular in Cambodia.
|Stores everywhere sell bright red lanterns and banners|
|Our guesthouse all decked out for the event|
On January 22, Chhunly, the manager of Honour Village, invited all the volunteers to a Chinese New Year's Eve celebration at his home in the countryside. Rather than having a separate party for the volunteers as he did last year, this time we were treated to a special delight....an opportunity to join in the ceremonies with his family.
|The drive to Chhunly's takes over half an hour by tuk-tuk.|
Our driver had to make sure we had enough gas to get there.
There were seven of us, so we took two tuk-tuks.
|This is Chhunly's mother's home, which is right next door to his.|
The ceremonies were held upstairs in this building.
|Chhunly lit incense and said prayers.|
The spirits of all the ancestors were invited to join us and enjoy the offerings.
|We were each given a lighted incense stick|
and invited to say prayers
It was very moving.
|Eleven children looked on. Then each one was given an incense stick|
|Chhunly gathered all the incense sticks and placed them at the front.|
|Then Chhunly and his mother began to collect up a little food from each dish, |
and placed it on a big banana leaf on a large tray.
Chhunly's mother is wearing a white prayer scarf for this solemn ceremony
|Not unlike our Christmas tree, the Chinese have a traditioal tree|
decorated with red envelopes containing money hanging from the branches.
The tree was next to a shrine, and there were more food offerings here.
|Gordon and I brought a red envelope for each child|
|The fake money and other offerings were brought outside.|
Notice there are all sorts of items represented in the packages -
Shoes (clothing), gold, cigarettes, and some sort of certificate?
|All these items were placed in a big metal pan and burned.|
They believe that by burning them
they are sent up to heaven to their ancestors
|Under the canopy, the cooks were busy preparing our feast.|
Everything is cooked over wood fires
|The table was heaped with food.|
Rice, noodles, fried noodles, wonderful soup, Khmer curry.
duck, chicken, fish and lots to drink.
|No special Cambodian feast is complete without prahok.|
Sometimes referred to as 'Cambodian cheese'
It's an acquired taste
a very spicy strong-flavoured fermented fish paste with red ants.
|I think there were about fifteen around our table,|
and about the same number seated at two or three more tables
All of Chhunly's family were there
|These are our two tuk-tuk drivers.|
We ate with chopsticks, which is not often done in Cambodia.
More often, Cambodians eat with a spoon and fork. No knife.
|Little guy enjoying a taste of dad's beer.|
|Yummy fruits for dessert.|
Oranges, mangosteen, longan, dragonfruit, apple
|Pineapple chunks served with salt|
|Chhunly's nephew enjoying a chunk of fruit|
|All worn out from too much partying|
Thanks to the generosity of Chhunly and his family, we were able to partake in an aspect of Cambodian life that most tourists don't ever get a chance to experience. I can't speak for the rest of the volunteers, but I left there feeling enriched, enlightened, accepted, and a little warm and fuzzy. And no, it wasn't the beer.... Unlike that little baby, I stuck to soda water.