Threshing Rice on Christmas Day in Cambodia

People thresh rice in rural Cambodia.

‘Twas Christmas Day in Cambodia… The sun shone brightly overhead. Golden grass and towering palm trees danced in the strong gusts of wind. Cows mooed and baby chicks tiptoed about.

Though we were far from our family and friends who are scattered throughout the world, we yearned to have a special holiday.  And indeed we did, surrounded by our new Cambodian friends, as well as an adventurous and kind couple from France.

On Christmas Morn, on a family compound in Cambodia’s Takeo Province, we learned how to thresh rice. Following the cues of our bed & breakfast owner’s cousin, we thrashed the dry bundles against a table comprised of thin wooden slats.

Golden grains flew through the air; most landed onto the ever-growing rice mountain underneath the table, whereas a few outliers found their way into our hair and clothes.

Honey-colored dogs looked on.

When finished threshing a bundle, we tossed it into a blonde pile of empty stalks. The stalks would eventually become cow feed and the mountain of rice would then be transferred to a machine through which it would be processed to remove its husk.

We heard that most families who live in Cambodia’s provinces engage in rice farming. After the December harvest, they store their rice in stilted storage rooms (away from rodents). As in many other Southeast Asian countries, rice is a staple of the diet – typically enjoyed at every daily meal and supplemented by green vegetables or fish.

It’s incredible to think that we only participated in two steps of rice growing’s 22-step process. Certainly, after our holiday threshing experience, we appreciated our fluffy servings of lunchtime and dinnertime rice even more!

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All rights reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

5 thoughts on “Threshing Rice on Christmas Day in Cambodia

    1. Certainly a departure from the traditional festivities! In the afternoon, about 20 of the local Cambodian high school students threw a Christmas party of sorts at the homestay where we were staying. We initiated a game of ‘Pin the Tail on the Reindeer’ and the kids also played a round of Musical Chairs. Such an incredible group of youth – of course, I’ll be posting on our English conversational group with them soon.

  1. What a wonderful opportunity, Thank you for this post, It is not a typical Christmas activity for sure and reminds me that we have a marvelously diverse world. I am shovelling a mountain of snow while you are making a mountain of rice.

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