Laos cerebrates many annual festivals called “Boun”, which are particularly enjoyable and beautiful, signifying traditional aspects of Lao lifestyle. Most festivals are connected with religion and the yearly rice farming cycle. The timing of the festivals is calculated according to the Buddhist lunar calendar.
This festival is held during the third full moon of the lunar calendar on the grounds of the enchanting pre-Angkorian Wat Phou ruins in Champasack. Festivities include elephant races, buffalo fights, cock fighting, traditional Lao music and dance performances. To coincide with the festival, a trade fair is also held to showcase products originating from southern Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
This traditional religious festival is held at Sikhottabong Stupa, located about 8 kilometers to the South of Thakhek town. The stupa was built between the 9th and 10th Century by King Nantahsena and was restored to its original grandeur during the 1950’s.
A ceremony is held at the “Wat” (temple) in the morning, when a special “bread made of sticky rice” is offered. This festival is held during the third full moon of the lunar calendar.
This is a harvest festival held at Songkhon District in Savannakhet Province. “Basi” ceremony is performed in order to give thanks to the land .
An offering ceremony where a donation is made and one’s future is read during the three day-three night festivals.
Lao New Year is celebrated at the same time each year (April 14-16). This year, the 16th is the first day of the New Year. On the 13th, Buddha images are taken out of the temples to be cleansed with scented water by devotees, and placed on special temporary altars within the compounds of “wats” (temples).
Devotees gather the scented water falling off the images, to take home and use it to pour on friends and relatives, as an act of cleansing and purification before entering the New Year. On the evening of the 15th, the images are returned to their proper shriners within the temples.
Boun Pi Mai is a time for much joyous celebration, with good deeds and prayers in anticipation the New Year.
A ceremony praying for rain is performed at the temple in the morning. In the afternoon, people gather in fields on the outskirts of villages and towns to launch the rockets with much abandoned revelry. Villages, communities and departments compete for the “best decorated” and the “highest traveling” rocket. Beginning around the middle of May, the festivals are staggered from place to place enable more participation and attendance. This is the time when an offering to the spirits can be made in a corner of one’s garden, early each morning.
This festival is held during the sixth full moon of the lunar calendar for the Buddha. Candlelight processions are held in temples to mark the birth date of Buddha.
This is the beginning of Buddhist Lent. During the next three-month period, monks spend most of their times in prayer and meditation and are restricted from spending nights in other “wats”. This festival is held during the eighth full moon of the lunar calendar.
At the Khao Padabdin ceremony day, people visit local temples to make offerings to dead ancestors as well as to share merit-making. This festival includes boat racing on the Nam Khan River and a trade fair in Luang Prabang World Heritage town.
This is for offerings to be made for dead ancestors to obtain merit. Popular and exciting longboat-racing competitions are held to celebrate the River. This festival is held during the tenth full moon of the lunar calendar.
This is held on the Sebangfai River. At the same occasion a trade fair of agricultural products, local handicrafts, Traditional Lao music and dance performance are organized. In this festival, citizens donate offerings to dead ancestors to gain merit.
The festival held after the end of the monks’ three-month fast and retreat during the rainy season (Boun Khao Pansa). At dawn on the first day, donations and offerings are made at temples around the city.
In the evening, candlelight processions are held at temples and hundreds of colorful floats decorated with flowers, incense and candles are set adrift down the Mekong River to pay respect to the river spirit.
The following day in Vientiane, Savannakhet and Champasack Province, a popular and exciting boat racing competition is held to celebrate the Mekong River.
This festival begins immediately after the last day of Lent, and lasts until the next full moon. During the one month period, devotes of the Buddhist faith help the monks to carry out their religious practice by making offerings of all their 9 requisites and other useful items .
This religious festival is held in and around That Luang Stupa, the National Symbol of Laos, where hundreds of monks gather to accept alms and floral votives from the people. The festival includes a grand fireworks display at night. During the day, an international trade fair, showcasing tourism in Laos and other countries from ASEAN and the Greater Mekong Sub-region. During the same period a similar festival is also celebrated at Ching Tim Stupa in Luang Namtha Province.
The Hmong New Year celebration features colorful displays of traditional costumes made from green, red and white silk and ornate silver jewelry. Music from traditional Hmong instruments such as the teun-flute, Hmong-style khene pipe and leave blowing is enjoyed. Other festivities include the Makkhon (cotton-ball) throwing ceremony, ox fighting, spinning-top races and crossbow demonstrations.