Tourists visiting Laos should not miss to enjoy and immerse in Lao festivals. Festivals and Celebrations are contributing a large part to Lao unique traditions.
Lao festivals usually relate to agricultural seasons or historical Buddhist holidays. The biggest celebration, New Year, curiously takes place in mid-April. This is also true of Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, and among the Dai people in Yunnan, China. Boon Bang Fai (the rocket festival) takes place a month later, in May, when more significant rains should materialize. The celeb contains lots of processions, music and dancing, accompanied by bamboo rocket to encourage their Gods to give rain. Tat Luang Festival in Vientiane in November week has full repertoire of fireworks, music and parades.
BUN PHA WET (January)
The fall on different dates each year, people exchange invitations with friends and families in different villages to participate in their celebrations. This festival is a commemoration of the Jataka, the story of Buddha’s life as Prince Vestsantara. The story is like holy bible in temples throughout the country. Later on, this is considered as a special area ordination as a monk time.
MAGHA PUJA (February)
Held on the night of the full moon, this festival commemorates the original teachings of Buddha given to over a thousand monks who came spontaneously to hear him speak. The festival is marked by parades of sail worshipers carrying around his local temples, making merit, and much religious music and singing.
BOUN PI MAI (April)
Lasting several days in mid-April, Boun Pimai celebrates the New Year of Laos. As in the holidays at this time of year in other Southeast Asia countries, particularly Thailand, Boun Pimai is celebrated with parades, dances, songs and throwing water enthusiast. The religious aspects of the holiday are more evident in Luang Prabang, where the Buddha statues are worshiped with water pouring ceremonies. Compounds of the temple are decorated with smaller stupas of sand, which are offered as merit for good fortune and health.
BOUN BANG FAI // ROCKET FESTIVAL (May)
With its origins in rain ceremonies – invoking pre – Buddhist, this festival now coincides with Laos Visakha Puja celebrations. Parades, songs, dance and party all lead to an explosive climax as huge, ornate homemade bamboo rockets are blessed and shot skyward to invite the rains. Rocket makers earn both merit and honor if their creations fly high. This dramatic festival is also celebrated in northeast Thailand.
KHAO PHANSAA (July)
Ushering in the three-month Buddhist Lent, which starts on the full moon in July and continues until the full moon of October, this is considered a particularly appropriate time for Lao men to enter the monkhood time and is marked by numerous ordination ceremonies.
BOUN HAW KHAO PADAP DIN // COMMEMORATION OF THE DEATHS (August)
Dedicated to remember and pay respects to the dead, the ceremony is a traditional celebration of Laos. People exhume previously buried bodies, cleaning up the remains, and then burn them on the night of the full moon. Relatives then present gifts to the monks who have chanted on behalf of those who have died.
BOUN SUANG HEUA // BOAT RACING (September)
Annually, the Boat racing festival (Boun Xuang Heua) takes place on Nam Khan river with teams of young people competing to be the fastest.
Before the festival, sometimes you can see them practicing. They also clean and decorated their boats with beautiful offerings as the boats are holy to them.
On the main day of festival, almost people in the town come to the riverbank to enjoy the boat race. At the end of the race, people cheer on their teams with many beer stands, food stalls, and a real party spirit.
AWK PHANSAA // AWK WATSA (October)
Marking the end of the three months of Buddhist Lent on the day of the full moon. The monks are finally free from the temple and receive gifts. A particularly beautiful aspect is Lai Hua Fai. On the eve of Awk Phansaa people gather in the nearest body of water to release dozens of small boats of banana leaves decorated with candles, incense and small flowers, in a manner similar to Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand celebration.
BUN NAM // WATER FESTIVAL (October)
In coastal cities such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet, the highly competitive Bun Nam boat races (Suang reua) happens during the same time as Awk Phansaa. Smaller communities sometimes have these races in the National Day on December 2.
BOUN THAT LUANG (November)
Although being a national celebration, this festival is mainly on the That Luang in Vientiane. Trade shows, beauty contests, music and fireworks are the activities throughout the week of the full moon, and end with a candlelight procession (wien thien) around the temple of That Luang.
LAO NATIONAL DAY (December 2th)
Streets covered with national flags and banners, processions, parades and speeches are the highlights of this celebration for the victory of the proletariat in 1975 aspects.