Festivals in Laos

    As a country where Buddhism is considered the national religion, Laos celebrates many traditional festivals and public holidays almost every month of the year. Laos festival, or boun, is like a part of the life of the Laotian people, and they are mainly linked to historical Buddhist holidays or agricultural seasons with solar-lunar mixed calendar. It will be good opportunity to spend holidays in Laos and immerse yourself in these celebrations of Laos to  understand more about its culture and traditional aspects of Lao lifestyle.

    Now – check out the following important festivals in Laos and get ready to party in the “country of millions of elephants”!

    Boun Pha Wet

     the ordination as a monk

    Pha Wet Festival is auspicious time to Lao men for the ordination as a monk.

    Time: in January – February
    Venue: in the whole country

    This is a religious festival taking place in different dates, staggered between villages, in the 1st month of the year to commemorate the Lord Buddha and his life story. In the belief of Lao people, Prince Vessantara was the Lord Buddha, the giver of all he owned. The festival is a sacred time as it is considered as the auspicious time to Lao men for the ordination as a monk. During the festival, Buddhist followers celebrate sacred ceremonies, prepare traditional food and enjoy great time with their families and friends.

    Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar (Full Moon)

    Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar

    A colorful candle light procession at the temple at Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar.

    Time: in February
    Venue: in the whole country

    Also known as Magha Puja, this is the second most important Buddhist festival of Laos as well as Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Also known as Fourfold Assembly or Sangha Day, this day commemorates a time when 1,250 Buddhists spontaneously came together to pay their respect to the Buddha. The Buddhists celebrate this day by lighting of oil lamps, attending temple for special observances, chanting, meditation and participating in Buddhist activities with the spiritual aims to do the only good things and to purify their minds.
    In the evening, each temple throughout the country will hold a candle light procession with incense and flowers, then the monks and the congregation members circle the Uposatha Hall three times, clockwise, to represent the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Some Buddhist communities may also have a series of meetings to discuss various aspects related to Buddhism.
    This is the same time for Vat Phou Festival in Champasak Province with speech and procession which shows the different specialities (music, dances, products) of the districts and their traditional dresses.

    Boun Khoun Khao – Rice Festival

    rice festival laos

    Boun Khoun Khao is rice festival when people pay gratitude to the mother of nature and join exciting entertaining activities.

    Time: in March
    Venue: in the rural parts of Laos

    Khoun Khao Festival reflects and honors agriculture of Laos, taking place in various villages throughout the month. The festival appreciates the spirit and abundance of the land as well as the rice harvest. During the ceremony, a senior in the village ties a white cotton strings around people’s wrists and pray for their happiness. On the festive days, many delicacies such as deep-fried Mekong fish, papaya salad and rice alcohol are offered to express gratitude to nature and Mekong River for giving the people abundant crops. After rituals, people will join exciting entertaining activities of dancing and singing in traditional music.

    Lao New Year Festival – Boun Pi Mai

    Lao New Year Festival

    Boun Pi May or Lao New Year Festival is one of the most important holiday in Laos when everyone gathers, pray for happiness, welcome the New Year, especially join the amazing moments of water plash.

    Time: in mid-April
    Venue: in the whole country

    Lao New Year Festival is annually celebrated in mid of April, officially three days long (around 13-15 April), but it usually lasts a full week. This festival is an important celebration for Lao people when houses are cleaned and Buddha images are washed with holy water. The people wear new clothes, pay visit to the temples to give offerings and watch colorful parades in the cities, especially in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The festival’s highlight is the throwing of water as Laotians believe that the old spirits will be washed away and welcome the New Year. Prepare yourself to get doused with water and flour in the streets by strangers when you plan your trip during this time.
    As one of public holidays throughout the country, most of offices, restaurants, schools… are closed for this period and there will be limit in visit and transfer around due to the crowds. However, the festival makes it one of the best time to visit Laos.

    Boun Visakha Bu Saar (Full Moon)

    Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar

    A beautiful candlelight procession at night.

    Time: in May
    Venue: in the whole country

    This is also one of festivals related to Buddhism, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. Taken place on the day of the 6th lunar month, visitors have chance to see the chanting and sermonizing at night followed by beautiful candlelight processions.

    Boun Bang Fai – Rocket Festival

    Boun Bang Fai

    The fantastic time to join Rocket Festival or Boun Bang Fai.

    Time: between May and September
    Venue: in various villages in the country

    Dated back to pre-Buddhist times, Bang Fai Festival – is one of the most boisterous festivals in Laos which takes place in various villages throughout the country at different time between May and September of the year.
    This will be memorable experience for visitors to witness best decorated and high travelling homemade rockets and fireworks shooting into the sky to call for good rain amidst a great deal of chanting and merry making.

    Boun Khao Phansa – Start of Buddhist Lent

    Boun Khao Phansa

    As start of Buddhist Lent, monks will spend time at their own temples for chanting, meditation during Boun Khao Phansa, lasting for 3 months.

    Time: between July and October
    Venue: in the whole country

    The Khao Phansa festival marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent which starts the day after the full moon of the eighth month on lunar calendar and it is mostly from July. This is the traditional annual three-month rain retreat known in Laos as “Phansa”. During this period, no wedding, no parties except the religious ones, and Buddhist monks stay in their own temple to study the Buddha’s teaching as well as meditating. They are not allowed to travel and stay overnight out of their temples, except certain circumstances but the leave period cannot exceed 7 days.

    For Buddhists, Khao Phansa is customarily the season for young men to enter the monkhood where they get spiritual training to gain merit for themselves and their parents. It is believed that a man who has been a monk, as a sign of purity and happiness, will lead their parents to the heaven.

    On this occasion, the people often prepare donations of food and other necessities for the monks. Most temples are very busy during this time as a lot of people come to make merit, give their donations and receive blessings.

    Boun Khao Salak

    Boun Khao Salak

    Pay the remembrance to the dead is one of Lao traditions, and it takes place on Khao Salak Festival.

    Time: in September
    Venue: in the whole country

    Khao Salak festival is held on the 10th full moon of the lunar calendar for remembrance to the dead. Lao people will attend at the temples and make offerings to the monks with a piece of papers talking about ancestors that will be read publicly. This celebration is to wish for appeasing the spirits and making sure they are resting peacefully. There are also some other activities on this time such as longboat races, traditional Lao music & dances, and trade fairs for local agricultural products and handicrafts.

    Boun Ok (Awk) Phansa – End of Buddhist Lent

    Boun Ok (Awk) Phansa laos

    There are many interesting activities such as candlelit procession, sending colorful floats to Mekong River or boat racing during Boun Ok Phansa or the End of Buddhist Lent.

    Time: in October
    Venue: in the whole country

    Boun Ok Phansa marks the end of Buddhist Lent when after three months of retreat, the monks return to their daily social activities. This is also a national public holiday in Laos which takes place sometime in October, near the end of the rainy season. During this time, followers gather at temples across the country, where beautiful candlelit processions are held in the evening, to give donations and offerings.

    Then, hundreds of colorful floats of flowers, incense, candles or even food and money are sent down the Mekong River, which means Mother of All Things, with the prayers to flow away all negativity. This is also time to enjoy fabulous boat racing festival along the Mekong River in Vientiane.

     That Luang Festival

    Boun That Luang festival

    Boun That Luang is important festival of Laos, taking place at That Luang Stupa, a national symbol of Laos in Vientiane.

    Time: in November
    Venue: in That Luang Stupa of Vientiane
    That Luang Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Vientiane, attracting Lao people from all over the country to join. This event normally lasts 3 days and takes place in November during the full moon at That Luang Stupa, a national symbol of Laos. Monks will gather to accept alms and floral votives from the locals. The festival includes processions, parties, and a trade show. There is also a grand fireworks display at night.

    The above are just some of the most popular festivals and holidays in Laos. Prepare yourself with the necessary knowledge of the cultural norms before attending (appropriate clothing, footwear, etc.). Exploring these unique and interesting festivals will make your visit to this “country of millions of elephants” more complete and significant.
    Contact Laos Travel team to plan your trip in Laos at any time.

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