In Laos, there is a traditional festival or major holiday almost every month. Lao people are fun and easy-going, and will commonly invite you to participate in many of the colourful festivals held throughout the year.
Please feel free to join the fun!
Boun Khoun Khao or the Harvest Festival
It is celebrated in the countryside after the rice has been harvested. This ceremony is held to give thanks to the spirit of the land and to ensure the next harvest will be plentiful.
Kud Chin & Kud Viet
Chinese and Vietnamese New Year are celebrated with parties, fireworks and merit making at Chinese and Vietnamese temples around the country.
Boun Maka Bousa
This festival is held on the full moon to commemorate the speech given by the Lord Buddha to 1,250 enlightened monks that gathered spontaneously, without prior notice. In the evening, the faithful visit local temples and circumambulate the wat three times with candles in a ceremony known as vien tian.
Boun Khao Chi
A special offering of sticky rice is coated with eggs then roasted and offered to monks. This ceremony is associated with Maka Bousa.
Lao Women’s Day
This is a public holiday to commemorate women’s contribution to Lao society. There are many parties at homes and offices.
Boun Pha Vet
A temple-based Buddhist festival lasting for three day and three nights that is centred on the telling of the jatka, or story of Prince Vestsantara (the Buddha’s second to last life).
Boun Pi Mai or Lao New Year
It is celebrated for three days in mid-April. The Pi Mai festival is based on the importance of water in people’s daily lives, and you certainly will get wet during this fun-filled occasion.
During Pi Mai, people splash water on one another to cleanse them of misfortune and bring luck in the coming year. In the country’s many wats, Buddha images are cleansed with sacred water, and many Lao people make special offerings at the temples during this time of year.
Luang Prabang has the most elaborate Pi Mai festival, but other provinces and towns also celebrate Pi Mai with parades, beauty contests and performances.
Boun Visakha Bousa
this festival celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha. It is held on the 15th day of the sixth lunar month. Beautiful candlelit processions take place in the evening.
Boun Bang Fai – the rocket festival
This is a rain making and fertility festival held just before the rainy season where huge hand made rockets are fired into the air to tempt the gods to make rain for the upcoming rice-growing season. This is a wild and happy ceremony that has music, dance, provocative performances and street processions.
Boun Khao Pansa
This festival, held on the full moon, marks the beginning of Buddhist lent, a three month period where monks are required to stay within their wat to meditate and focus on darma studies. Lao men are traditionally ordained as monks during this time.
Boun Khao Salak
Offerings including daily necessities such as books, pens, sugar and coffee are made to specific monks based on a lottery system. Laypeople also give beautiful wax flower candles to the monks to gain merit.
Boun Ork Pansa
Held on the full moon which marks the end of the rainy season, monks who were ordained for the three month lent period, leave the vat and rejoin their families. During the evening of Van Ork Pansa a beautiful ceremony is held throughout the country in which people launch small, candle lit banana-leaf boats (heua fai) on the rivers replete with offerings of incense and small amounts of money to bring luck and prosperity.
Boun Souang Heua
The festive traditional boat racing festival takes place around the country following Ork Pansa. In Luang Prabang, the boat races are celebrated one month earlier.
Boun That Louang
The biggest party of them all, Boun That Louang attracts what often appears to be the country’s entire population to the sacred That Louang temple in Vientiane for a week around the full moon in November. Hundreds of monks receive floral offerings from merit-makers on the first day of the festival, followed by parades, fireworks and music.
Lao National Day
December 2 is Lao National Day, which celebrates the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1975. There are parades and fairs in all major cities and towns. In December – February many ethnic minorities such as the Hmong, Black Tai, Yao, Khmu, Katu, Tarieng and Ta Oy hold new year’s ceremonies and annual rituals specific to their ethnic group.