The Lao calendar is jampacked with events. There's everything from Pathet Lao day on January 6th to Boun Pi Mai starting on April 14(the Lao New Year), when the whole country goes into a frenzy. Let's have a look at the list.
|Jan 1||New Year's Day|
|Jan 6||Pathet Lao Day|
|Jan 20||Army Day|
|Feb-March||Boun Khao Chi|
|Mar 8||Women's Day|
|Mar 22||People's Party Day|
|Late March||Boun Pha Vet|
|Apr 14-16||Boun Pi Mai(Lao New Year)|
|May 1||Labour Day|
|Mid May||Rocket Festival|
|Late May||Boun Visakha Bousa|
|June 1||Children's Day|
|Mid-July||Boun Khao Pansa|
|Aug 13||Lao Issaea|
|Aug- Sept||Haw Khao Padap Din|
|Mid Sept||Boun Khao Salak|
|Oct 12||Liberation Day|
|Mid Oct||Bun Ork Phansa|
|Early Nov||That Luang Festival|
|Nov- Dec||Hmong New Year|
|Dec 2||Lao National Day|
In theory, this blog could go on endlessly because there's so much nuance in the different days that are celebrated in Laos. The people of Laos do well with their public holiday allowance(11 in total), but it's nothing compared to bordering Cambodia, which celebrates 24. Thailand is not far behind with 16.
First things first, Pathet Lao day is celebrated annually on Jan 6th. The Pathet Lao came to power after America was defeated in The Vietnam War, and the communists fought for a free Laos. It is hugely symbolic for the Lao People's Democratic Republic( full name). It is seen as a day to celebrate the time when the Lao people rose up and finally shook off the colonial shackles. (Note: Army Day on January 20 is very closely related).
This religious festival is another important celebration in honor of the Buddha. People carry candles and circle their local temples. The festival takes place during the third full moon of the lunar calendar. An offering of food is made to the monks called Makhaboucha.
This religious festival celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Lord Buddha. It always happens on the 15th day of the 6th lunar month. Because of the associated pageantry, it is a great time to visit Laos(Luang Prabang especially).
This is a festival to mark Buddhist Lent. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 9th month.
In Lao, 'Haw' means wrap in small packs. What is wrapped in small packs is sticky rice and sweet coconut milk.
Lao religion is peculiar because as well as being Buddhist, it also has an element of Animism. Haw Khao Padap Din is also a time to pay respect to Maethaulanii, the earth god.
During the festival, people make offerings such as cigarettes and sweet treats at the foot of trees. This happens all in darkness because it is the time when spirits are supposed to come out.
This festival marks the end of Buddhist lent(3 months long) and the rainy season. It marks the end of the period where monks must remain in their temples. After Boun Ork Phansa, festivals begin to take place again. A sight that is well worth seeing is the Nam Khan river lit up by small boats made of banana leaves and housing a candle.
That Luang is actually the name of a famous stupa that Lao Theravada Buddhists believe contains a relic from the Buddha.
That Luang is over 500 years old and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. People gather in Vientiane for the three-day festival, first at Wat Si Muang before moving to That Luang. Like many things related to Lao festivals, offerings are made to monks so people can hopefully gain future prosperity. Again, worshippers circle the stupa three times while holding candles.
This is often overlooked in the calendar because the Hmong are a minority. It shares many similarities with Lao new year and centers heavily around honoring the spirits of ancestors. It ranges from 3 days to a week long. Offerings are made to the god of wealth and prosperity. Popular food includes boiled chicken, Hmong Larb, and papaya salad.
For more information about the Hmong new year, check out this article.
Ironically, many Hmong now live outside Laos, so many of the world's biggest new year celebrations take place in America.
There you have it. Those are all the festivals in Laos. Laos holidays are some of the most colorful and energetic in the world, which is why you should book a holiday there. But first...
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