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Travel & Tourism . Tourist Guide to the Country

Laos Festivals and Events


Awk Phansaa
Laos, October, 2000
This celebrates the end of the three-month rains retreat. Monks are allowed to leave the monasteries to travel and are presented with robes, alms bowls and other requisites of the renunciative life. On the eve of Awk Phansaa many people fashion small banana-leaf boats carrying candles, incense and other offerings, and float them in rivers, a custom know as Lai Hua Fai, similar to Loy Krathong in Thailand.


Pi Mai
Luang Prabang, April
The lunar new year begins in mid-April and practically the entire country comes to a halt and celebrates. Houses are cleaned, people put on new clothes and Buddha images are washed with lustral water. In the wats, offerings of fruit and flowers are made at various altars and votive mounds of sand or stone are fashioned in the courtyards. Later the citizens ake to the streets and douse one another with water, which is an appropriate activity as April is usually the hottest month of the year. This festival is particularly picturesque in Luang Prabang, where it includes elephant processions.


Vietnamese Tet & Chinese New Year
Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet, February, 2000
This is celebrated in Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet with parties, deafening nonstop fireworks and visits to Vietnamese and Chinese temples. Chinese and Vietnamese-run business usually close for three days.


Magha Puja
Vientiane, February, 2000
Magha Puja also known as Makkha Bu-saa, or full moon. This commemorates a speech given by the buddha to 1,250 enlightened monks who came to hear him without prior summons. In the talk, the Buddha laid down the first monastic regulations and predicted his own death. Chanting and offerings mark the festival, culminating in the candlelit circumambulation of wats throughout the country.


Boun Khoun Khao
Laos, March, 2000
A local harvest festival celebrated around local wats,also known as temples.


Boun Pimai
Laos, April, 2000
This is to celebrate Lao New Year. The first month of the Lao New Year is actually December but festivities are delayed until April when days are longer than nights. The festival also serves to invite the rains. Pimai is one of the most important annual festivals, particularly in Luang Prabang. The small stupas of sand, decorated with streamers, in wat compounds are symbolic requests for health and happiness over the next year. It is celebrated with traditional Lao folk singing (mor lam) and the circle dance (ramwong). There is usually a 3-day holiday. Similar festivals are celebrated in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma.


Bun Pha Wet
Laos, April, 2000
This is a temple-center festival in which the jataka or birth-tale of Prince Vestsantara, the Buddha's penultimate life, is recited. This is also a favoured time for Lao males to be ordained into the monkhood. The scheduling of Bun Pha Wet is staggered so that it is held on different days in different villages. This is so that relatives and friends living in different villages can invite one another to their respective celebrations.

Boun Bang Fai

Boun Bang Fai
Laos, May, 2000
The rocket festival is a Buddhist rain-making festival. Large bamboo rockets are built and decorated by monks and carried in procession before being blasted skywards. The higher a rocket goes, the bigger its builder's ego gets. Designers of failed rockets are thrown in the mud. The festival lasts up to 2 days.


Visakha Puja
Laos, May, 2000
Celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, celebrated in local wats.


Khao Phansaa
Laos, June - July
Is the start of Buddhist Lent and is a time of retreat and fasting for monks. These are the most usual months for ordination and for men to enter the monkhood for short periods before they marry. The festival starts with the full moon in June or July and continues until the full moon in October. It all ends with the Kathin ceremony in October when monks receive gifts.


Haw Khao Padap Din
Laos, August, 2000
This is a sombre festival in which the living pay respect to the dead. Many cremations take place, bones being exhumed for the purpose, and gifts are presented to the Sangha so that monks will chant on behalf of the deceased.


Boun Ok Phansaa
Laos, September, 2000
This is the end of Buddhist Lent and the faithful take offerings to the temple. It is month number 9 in Luang Prabang and month number 11 in Vientiane, and marks the end of the rainy season. Boat races take place on the Mekong River with crews of 50 or more men and women. On the night before the race small decorated rafts are set afloat on the river.

Bun Nam

Bun Nam
Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet, October, 2000
A second festival held in association with Awk Phansaa is Bun Nam (water festival). Boat races (suang heua) are commonly held in towns located on rivers, such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet,in smaller towns these races are often postponed until National( Day 2 December) so that residents aren't saddled with two costly festivals in two months.


Lao National Day
Laos, 2nd December, 2000
This celebrates the 1975 victory of the proletariat over the monarchy with parades, speeches, etc. Celebration is mandatory, hence poorer communities postpone some of the traditional Awk Phansaa activities are usually practised roughly a month earlier,until National Day.


Acknowledgements: ASIATRAVELMART.COM

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