Festivals and Holidays in Laos
The Nation Celebrates
Festivals (boun) and other holidays are closely tied to the agricultural calendar, significant Buddhist events and government-related celebrations. These colorful, exciting festivals involve everyone in the community and visitors are always welcome and encouraged to share in the fun, and experience the Lao culture at its most joyful.
Vietnamese and Chinese New Year
Parties, dancing and exploding firecrackers give a particularly lively start to the year for the Vietnamese and Chinese communities in Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet as well as interested onlookers. There are special cakes and sweetmeats available around this time and perhaps join in the fun.
Boun Pi Mai (Lao New Year)
This most significant festival occurs in mid April. The entire country joins in to celebrate. Traditionally at this time, houses are cleaned, new clothes are worn, offerings are made at the temple and Buddha images are cleansed with scented water. After these symbolic acts of renewal, people throw their energies into a joyful and abandoned water fight, dowsing each other and passers by with water. Few people can escape the infectious nature of this festival. Whilst a scoop of water may drench your clothes it is to bring a moment of cool relief from the hottest season of the year. Festival elephant parades are held in Luang Prabang at this time and are a particularly memorable event for visitors to this picturesque city.
This festival celebrates the day of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing away, and is a time to pay respects to ancestors. The celebrations usually center around temples and include chanting, sermons and beautiful candlelit processions at night.
Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)
At this wild festival which features joyous ceremonies calling for rain for the planting season, large rockets made of bamboo are fired into the sky. Temples, villages and government departments compete to have the best decorated and highest flying rockets. Music, dancing and light hearted drama are enjoyed and the festival provides many opportunities to see bawdy musicals, colorful processions and lots of cheerful carousing.
International Labor Day 1st May
A day in which countries all over the world honor workers. Parades are held in Vientiane by not usually in other parts of the country.
Boun Khao Phansaa
A festival marking the beginning of the three month long Buddhist lent and a time when all monks stop traveling and stay at a single temple for prayer and meditation. It is also a period traditionally designated fro the ordination of men entering the monkshood for short periods. It is a time of austerity when monks fast and any frivolous activities are avoided. Weddings or other celebrations are usually not held during this period.
Boun Khao Padap Din
This is a time for reflection and paying respects to the dead. It is a sober time, a time for cremation and ceremonies led by resonant chanting in memory of deceased relatives and friedns.
Boun Awk Phansaa
This festival moarks the end of Buddhist on the Buddhist calendar. Monks are permitted to travel after this time, and to celebrate the occasion they are presented with alms of bowls and robes in the morning. In the evening, the lighting of candles in and around the temples pays respects to Buddha an his mother.
Lai hua Fai
Teh evening of Boun Awk Phansaa is also a time for people to make new vows, pray for forgiveness for sin (demerit) committed in the past year and to rid themselves of bad luck or disease. Small ornamental floats decorated with candles, flowers are money are floated down the river taking away the troubles of their owners and offering things to the spirits of the river for the life they have given through the river's waters. A beautiful ceremony brings crowds of eager devotees and spectators to the water's edge.
Boun Nam (Water Festival)
Bound Suang Heua (Boat Races)
These festivals take place on the Mekhong river in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet after Buddhist Lent. Crews of about fifty men and women armed with oars power long boats to the stirring beat of drums along a stretch of river flanked by cheering crowds.
That Luang Festival
This week-long festival is a highlight in the year's activities and is held in honor of all stupas in the country but most particularly of the country's largest and most significant shrine, That Luang. Teh first day begins with the gathering of several hundred monks to receive alms from thronging crowds bearing silver bowls and offering prayers. Festive parades, candlelit processions, firework displays and a carnival all make this an especially fun and cheerful festival.
Lao Nation Day - Public Holiday
A significant and festive day to commemorate the 1975 Lao People's Revolutionary victory over the monarchy, and is typically celebrated by speeches and parades. People enjoy a day with their families and friends.