Happy New Year in lao is sôk di pi mai ສະບາຍດີປີໃຫມ່. Contrary to the Western tradition, The Lao new year celebrations occur from the 14th to 16th of April, the same as Thai Songkran. In this blog, we're gonna look at language related to the festivities and a little of the Lao culture surrounding the big day.
This is a fun one, so come along with us.
The first thing to say is that although the official New year is celebrated from the 14th to the 16th, the party often stretches longer and symbolically invokes attempts to encourage a beneficial and protective force to watch over the Lao people.
The most famous element of the traditional solar New Year is throwing water. In the tourist centers, it will often descend into one giant water fight, although its significance is much deeper.
Throwing water takes place on the last day of the old year when the world needs to be cleansed and purified of the past year. It is a time to spend with family members when houses will be cleaned as well as statues of the Buddha.
People bring sand to the temples and build mounds that are decorated and perfumed. These are defenses against any evil spirits coming along into the new year. They are also symbolic of the mountain where King Kabinlaphrôm's seven daughters kept his head after he was killed. And of course, there is still a lot of water being thrown!
It is interesting to note the similarities between this 'no day' and other festivals worldwide, like Mexico's day of the dead and Brazil's carnival. People in Laos are usually very reserved. This day is a way for them to let off steam and experiment with identity. People cover their faces in white power and paint their faces. The police take a back seat and let the people do what they want(within reason, of course).
The first day of the new year is commonly known as Baci or sou khuan.
Buddhism places high value on 'making merit'. A common way to make merit is by setting free a caged animal. (Forget that the people who sell the animals capture them, to begin with).
Another way to make merit is by the Baci ceremony, where the monks offer food in return for a blessing. The Baci ceremony is something we already discussed in our article I love you in Lao. Buddhists believe that the body is made up of 32 spirits, and when one of these spirits leaves the body, you get sick. By tying a cotton string to the wrists, the different parts of the soul are kept in order, and you are returned to total health.
So far, we've talked about the official way that the people of Lao celebrate New year, but mixed in with this are all sorts of events that would be considered modern. Although there is traditional dancing with traditional Lao music like lamvông (circle dancing), in the capital Vientiane, there are techno parties that wouldn't look out of place in Berlin.
A famous festival in the capital is the Beerlao music zone water fest, although it has been canceled in recent years because of COVID.
Another thing that happens at New Year is the rules around gambling are often relaxed. If you pop your head into a doorway, you will often see groups of men playing card games as well as a version of the Chinese game mahjong. Of course, they will also enjoy traditional music at maximum volume!
(There are other ways to say a happy new year in Lao, such as Souksan van pi mai or Sabaidi pi mai.)
|Memories||khuaamsong cham||ຄວາມຊົງ ຈຳ|
|Twelve o'clock||sibsong omng||ສິບສອງໂມງ|
|Celebrate||sa heim sarong||ສະເຫຼີມສະຫຼອງ|
Now you know about the New Year's annual celebrations in Lao and how traditionally closely related it is with Buddhist practices.
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The English new year is two months away, and the Lao new year celebrated is six months passed, but I still want to wish everyone reading the best.
Here's to a healthier and happier life for all.