Time: In the evening of the 14th day and the 15th day of the tenth lunar month.
Place: In the yards of the pagodas or of the residents’ houses, Ngo boat race in the Maspero River (Soc Trang City).
Objects of worship: Moon deity.
Characteristics: Moon worshipping ceremony, floating lights on the river, Ngo boat race.
Participators: The Khmer people in the South, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese.
Ooc-Om-Bok Festival is a religious service that worships the moon deity of the Khmer minority group and prays for good luck, happiness, good weather, and bumper crops. The festival is usually held when the dry season begins and rice is ripening on the fields.
The Moon-worshipping ceremony takes place on the evening of 14th of the lunar month before the moon goes to the top. The ceremony is held in the yards of the pagoda or of residents’ houses. People erect bamboo poles with a crossbar on which they decorate with flowers and leaves. Below is a table of offerings that include green rice flakes, potatoes, bananas, coconuts, grapefruits, oranges, and cakes. People sit on the ground with crossed legs, clasping their hands before the altar and look up the Moon. An old master of ceremonies says his prayers, asks the moon deity to receive the offerings and bless people with the best.
After the ceremony, the elders ask the children of the house sit flatly on the ground with crossed legs before the altar. The elders then take a handful of green rice, feed each child and ask them what they wish while clapping their backs. If the children answer the question clearly and politely, all the best will come to them that year.
After that, people enjoy the offerings together, and children play games or dance and sing in the moonlight. Anyone who visits the Khmer’s houses on this occasion will be tasted Cớm dẹp (a kind of young sticky rice).
At the pagodas of the Khmer people, locals hold paper-lanterns releasing into the sky and putting on the rivers. The custom of releasing flying lights and floating lights is believed to sweep away the darkness, impure and sadness from the village. Many traditional activities of the Khmer are organized on the evening of 14th.
Ngo boat race: The day after the Moon-worshipping ceremony is the Ngo boat race. Prior to going to the race, people often hold the thanksgiving ceremony and feast participants in the competition. Race teams include a healthy and experienced young man who carefully selected from the beginning. Each team has beautiful costumes and same-color hats.
There are tens of boats representing the pagodas or teams of many localities take part in the race. The organizers often divide the participant boat teams into two groups A and B. Group A often includes boats which had been ranked in the previous season. Group B is the remaining boats. Ngu is (five tones) music, drums, gongs and chants from the race teams that are doing a warm-up make exciting a section of a river.
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