Ok Om Bok is a traditional festival of Khmer people in Mekong Delta. Being one of the three biggest festivals of Khmer people, Ok Om Bok has sacred meaning in spiritual life of these people, making a cultural characteristic of this ethnic community.
Ok Om Bok Festival in Mekong Delta
Ok Om Bok Festival takes place on the Full Moon day of the tenth month in Vietnamese Lunar Calendar, aiming at worshipping the Moon. In Khmer’s conception, it is the ending day in the circle of the moon spinning around the earth and the ending time of a harvest. Hence, Ok Om Bok Festival aims at expressing gratitude to the Moon for protecting and promoting an abundant crop as well as wishing for the next successful harvest.
At the night of the Full Moon day, Khmer people set up a table of offerings: new sticky rice, yam, coconuts, bananas, sweeties, so on. At the centre of the table, there is always a pot of tea. After each time of pouring tea into the glass, Khmer people bow their head one time to show their thanks to the Moon. After that, there is a colorful and sparkling lanterns ceremony on Ba Om Lake. Khmer people not only drop these lanterns on the lake but also fly them to the sky. Dozens of great lantern lighten the night sky in bustling music and the joy of Khmer people. Khmer people believe that these lanterns will bring bad luck and risk far away. Every year, this colorful ceremony attracts thousands of viewers including both locals and tourists.
The most attractive and exciting activity of Ok Om Bok Festival is “Ngo” race (a special kind of boat of Khmer people in shape of Nagar snake). Ngo race is a traditional sport of Khmer in Ok Om Bok Festival. Ngo is a long boat with 25-30 meters in length and 1 – 1.4 meter in width. There are about 40 to 60 boatmen in every “Ngo’ with a leader at the top to guide the whole team. Before the race, people gather along the riverbanks making an exciting atmosphere. During the race, the boisterous sound of drum, trumpet, cheers and applause urge boatmen row as fast as possible to the end. “Ghe Ngo” race is a unique cultural activity of Khmer people which has sacred meaning in spiritual life of community.
Overall, Ok Om Bok is an important festival in Khmer people’s life. It becomes the symbol of aspiration, beautiful soul and rich emotional life of people to supernatural forces. Ok Om Bok festival not only contributes to conserve and promote traditional cultural identity of Khmer community but also a unique tourism product to attract visitors.