kompong chhnang province – The drums and singing get louder as the procession moves through the village to the mosque. From every house it passes, people, mostly women, in bright clothing join in, carrying elaborately decorated cakes that took them up to 10 days to prepare.
Children flock around them, waiting to get a taste of the cake after the Ong Chav, or men of the mosque, have completed the pray-
ers as the Kan-Imamsan Cham Muslims in Kompong Chhnang’s O’Russei commune celebrate Maw-
lud, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.
“In O’Russei we are usually the first district that celebrate Mawlud because this is the origin of the Kan-Imamsan,” said Leb Ke, a teacher in the Srey Brey village. “This year, one other village celebrateds before us, but most villages will celebrate in the next few days.”
Once all the processions from all parts of the village have arrived at the mosque, Kai Tam, religious leader of the Kan-Imamsan, welcomes everyone to the celebrations before the cakes are carried into the mosque for more prayer.
Also participating in Sunday’s celebrations was the head of Kom-
pong Chhnang’s department of religion, Neth Veasna, who said that even though he isn’t Cham it is important to celebrate the holiday.
“This is the biggest ceremony in the Cham community. Even though they are Cham, if we compare it to Khmer we are the same, and we need to preserve all [Cambodian] culture,” he said through a translator.
Even though Mawlud is celebrated in most Muslim countries, some Muslims believe it is not a proper holiday since there is no mention of it in the Quran or the Sunnah, said Alberto Perez, an anthropologist who has been studying Cham culture.
“Mohammed never said that anyone should celebrate his birthday but the tradition has become popular after his death,” Perez said.
For the people of Kan-Imamsan the holiday is an important celebration, even if it is more about the cake than the prophet’s birthday for many of the younger generation. But even the towering cakes symbolize something important, Leb Ke said.
“The egg in the middle of the house stands for fertility…and the flag on the top stand for health and happiness,” he said.
Dressed in bright green dresses, 20-year-old Sa Kimas and her friends said they spent more than 10 days preparing the cakes on their time off from work and school.
“I think it is a wonderful [ceremony]. Because it has the flowers and the colors and the cakes,” Sa Kimas said.
“It is to celebrate Mohammed’s birthday and have a good day with lots of cake, even if it is very hot,” 15-year-old Pess Tevy added.