Laos is a very small country, but events and holidays are held here on a large scale.
The Tet holiday is celebrated in Laos by large Vietnamese and Chinese communities who close their shops for a few days. For many of them, it is an opportunity to meet each other, share news that has happened throughout the year, and remind the younger generation of the national culture.
Tet is a family holiday for most community members. During this time, relatives try to get together, traditional dishes are prepared, houses and streets are decorated.
The most colorful celebrations are in the larger cities of Vientiane, Pakse, and Savannakhet. The streets of the local Chinese and Vietnamese quarters are just strewn with flower shops with orange bouquets, the alleys are full of red lanterns and ribbons with gold symbols, gold figurines of the symbol of the year are placed on the street altars. The festivities last for three days, during which there are family reunions, temple visits, boisterous parties, and an enormous number of firecrackers thrown into the sky.
Meeting each other every day is sure to say, “Happy New Year.” Children are bought new clothes and given ” coins “for good luck” in red envelopes.
Boon Pha Bet
Boon Pha Vet is held on the fourth lunar month (December-January-February), celebrating the birth (reincarnation) of Buddha. “Pha Vet” is an abbreviated name for the last reincarnation of the Buddha before he attained enlightenment. There is no definite date for the celebration – it takes place at different times in different areas, but lasts about 2 days. This is very convenient if you want to celebrate with people who live in remote places.
Townspeople usually celebrate Boon Pha Bet at home or go to visit relatives in the province. The holiday is also a day of ordination as a monk for men if they decide to choose this path in life. During the festival, Buddhist followers in Laos celebrate sacred rituals and prepare traditional foods.
Temples on these days are traditionally decorated in bright colors, here the hagiography and messages of the Buddha are read, festive chants and sermons are heard. Parishioners traditionally bring plenty of food to the temples for the monks, who in exchange will pray for the welfare of all the people.
The festival of Makkha Puja is a day of giving thanks to the Buddha for his teachings and honoring his companions, the monks. It is celebrated on the February night of the third full moon, highlighting the messages Buddha gave to the thousand monks who came to hear him preach. It is noted that these monks were enlightened, and quite by chance, without collusion, ended up in the same place. They were all ordained monks by Buddha himself.
The holiday was officially established in the late XIX century, and the ceremony was conducted by the king himself. Today, the day of the festival is not working and is celebrated with a beautiful procession. It is a parade of candles (candle procession), which takes place in the evening. The candles brought by the worshippers to their local temples (bypassing the pagodas three times beforehand) are placed inside, accompanied by a lot of religious music and chanting.
Early in the morning, well-dressed worshippers also bring lighted candles, refreshments (rice balls), incense, and flowers to the temples. On this day, donations are made to the temple and good deeds are done (e.g., releasing birds from their cages). The most colorful Makha Puja celebrations take place in Vientiane and Champassak, with traditional bullfights, elephant races, and numerous performances of dancers and singers.
Bun Pimai is a traditional Laotian New Year parade festival which lasts about 3 days. This holiday is usually held from April 13 to 15 and as one of the most interesting festivals of Laos attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world. Boon Pimai is also called water festival, because on this day people are allowed to pour water on each other (it is one of the peculiar rituals of Asian culture in general).
The celebration of the Laotian New Year is a combination of fun and religious meditation. Like almost all festivals at this time of year in other Asian countries, Bun Pimai is celebrated in grand style with parades, dancing and singing. The religious aspect of the festival is most evident in Luang Prabang, where Buddhism is particularly revered.
On the first day of the festival, people clean their homes and prepare scented water and flowers to decorate their homes. In the afternoon, they go to pagodas and temples to hear sermons and pray to the Buddha for a better life in the new year. They take scented water with them to sprinkle on statues of Buddha as a sign of purification. The water that falls from the statues is collected and taken home to sprinkle on friends and relatives for purification and good luck.
Those who come to Laos during Bun Pimai celebrations will be sure to have a blue or red thread tied around their wrist by familiar Laotians as a sign of happiness and health. A traditional holiday meal of rice porridge and meat and herb salad is offered as a treat.
The last day of Boon Pimai is the most exciting. Those around them wish each other all the best and then splash them with water. Houses, furniture, and animals are also splashed with water (for good luck).
Bung Bang Fai (Rain Festival or Rocket Festival) is a unique rain summoning festival held in early May to June (on the eve of the rainy season). The celebration has its origins in ancient fertility rites, although Buddhist monks participate in the festivities today. Although belief in the pagan gods is no longer as strong, the ceremony is still particularly popular in areas with arid climates, where the celebration is carried out with great care and scope.
There is no exact date, as it is always determined by the lunar calendar. The celebration lasts for about 3 days, during which the rich feast, traditional costumes, musical, theatrical and dance shows, competitions and songs are organized.
The festival ends with another competition – the release of hundreds of homemade fireworks made of bamboo and gunpowder, whose originality is judged by a special jury.
Laos is a small country, but the holidays celebrated here with a special scope, quite a few. There are 15 holidays a year. On these days the public and many private institutions do not work, and people gather in the streets, organizing colorful processions. Cafes and stores are open, but we advise you to check the schedule, as on holidays it is adjusted.
What is celebrated in Laos?
The broadest events are:
- Tet or Chinese New Year. It is celebrated in Laos by the Vietnamese and Chinese communities. The holiday is considered a family holiday: relatives gather around the festive table, cook national dishes, talk and share impressions of the past year. Festivities last for 3 days. The brightest carnivals are held in major cities. Streets on these days are decorated with lanterns, flowers and figures with the symbol of the year. Children are traditionally bought new outfits and gifts, and after dark release a lot of balloon lanterns and firecrackers.
- Boon Pha Vet – celebration of the birth or reincarnation of Buddha. The event has no exact date and in different provinces celebrated from December to February. The celebration lasts 2 days. The temples are decorated in bright colors, there are heard festive prayers and chants, and the parishioners present the monks with various treats.
- Makha Puja is a festival of Laos when all worshippers express their recognition of the Buddha for his teachings. The event was officially approved in the 19th century. It is celebrated on the 3rd full moon of the year with a parade of candles. The worshippers in the morning bring candles and treats to the monks at the temples. In the major cities (Vientiane and Champassak) hold bullfights, dance and singing festivals.
- Boon Pimai is a water festival held in conjunction with the New Year’s Eve holidays. It is celebrated from April 13 to 15 with parades and religious processions. On the first day of Boon Pimai, Laotians traditionally decorate their homes with flowers and prepare aromatic water. Locals carry the prepared liquid to temples to irrigate Buddha statues with it. The water that runs off the statues is collected back into vessels and taken home to be poured on the final day of the feast for the closest relatives. It is believed that the water will bring good luck and cleanse the karma of all those on whom it falls.
- Bung Bang Fai is a festival of rain and rockets. The festival is held in May and June to invoke the rains. The celebration lasts for 3 days, during which Laotians organize feasts, hold festivals in national costumes, organize contests and prayers. The rain festival ends with a salvo of hundreds of homemade firecrackers, the best of which are awarded prizes.
- Khao Phansa – the beginning of a 3-month fasting period (July-October). This period is considered the most prosperous for men who decide to become a monk.
- Ok Phansa is the end of Lent, celebrated on the full moon in October. On this day, monks are allowed to leave the temple. The most striking event of the day is the ceremony at the ponds – hundreds of homemade boats made of banana leaves with lit candles are released into the water.
- Khao Padap Din – day of remembrance of the dead, celebrated on the first full moon in August. The holiday is marked with a not-so-pleasant ceremony: the exhumation of bodies takes place during the day, and at night they are cremated. Traditionally, relatives of the deceased present gifts to the monks, who pray for the repose of the souls and speak on their behalf.
- National Day of Laos (the holiday is celebrated on December 2). On this day the streets are decorated with national flags of the country, parades everywhere, festive music and greetings.
If you are lucky enough to be in Laos on any of these holidays, feel free to join the celebrants. Good mood, bright spectacles, unforgettable emotions are guaranteed.
To visit Laos you don’t need a visa. Holidays for two weeks (this is the maximum duration of stay here without a visa) will give you enough good impressions and the general idea of the country. For a longer trip you will have to apply for a permit.
The transportation system often determines how many interesting things you will get to see in the country. For those who do not rely on public transportation in Laos, the best choice is to rent a car, motorcycle or bicycle. This will allow the tourist to be more independent and mobile.
Waterfalls are one of the tourist aspects that attract travelers to Laos. There is the quietest and widest waterfalls on the planet, and there are others – cascading, violent, multi-level. In some of them it is allowed to swim.
Tourists began to visit Laos recently, and the hotel business here is not as developed as desired. There are very few luxury hotels, and many budget establishments have poor conditions. Therefore, it is recommended to choose the place for accommodation responsibly. Learn about the best hotels in the country!