The Bun Pha Wet is a temple-centered festival in which the jataka or birth-tale of Prince Vessantara, the Buddha’s penultimate life, is recited. This is also a favoured time for Lao males to be ordained into 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.
The Boun Khoun Khao Festival celebrates harvest in most villages and thanks are given to the spirit of the land.
The Magha Puja Festival commemorates a speech given by the Buddha to 1,250 enlightened monks. 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 (temples) throughout the country. It is celebrated most fervently in Vientiane and at the Khmer ruins of Wat Phu, near Champasak.
The Vietnamese Tet & Chinese New Year is celebrated in Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet with parties, deafening non-stop fireworks and visits to Vietnamese and Chinese temples. Chinese and Vietnamese-run businesses usually close for three days.
The Wat Phu Festival held in Champasak happens on the grounds of the enchanting pre-Angkorian Wat Phut site. Festivities include elephant racing, buffalo fighting, cock fighting and performances of Lao traditional music and dance. The trade fair also showcases products from the southern province of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Make sure you don’t forget your wallet and your camera.
The Boun Pha Vet is a ceremony of donations when one’s future is read from a piece of paper drawn during the three-day, three-night festival.
The Boun Pi Mai Festival celebrates New Year and is a public holiday that typically lasts for three days. The Lao New Year is particular in the sense that it is delayed to April when the days are longer and there is more time to party. The festival also serves to invite the rains. Statues of the Buddha in the “calling for rain” posture are ceremonially doused in water, which is poured along an intricately decorated trench. 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 and the circle dance. Similar festivals are celebrated in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma.
The Visakha Puja celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha and is celebrated in local Wats.
The Bun Bang Fai Festival (Rocket festival) is a Buddhist rain-making festival. The festival lasts two days and is a worthwhile experience for you to enjoy. This is one of the wildest festivals in the country, with plenty of music and dance, processions and general merrymaking, culminating in the firing of bamboo rockets into the sky. In some places male participants blacken their bodies with lamp soot, while women wear sunglasses and carry carved wooden phalli to imitate men. The firing of the rockets is supposed to prompt the heavens to initiate the rainy season and bring much-needed water to the rice fields.
The Khao Phansaa marks the beginning of the three-month Buddhist Lent, which commences at the full moon in June or July and continues until the full moon in October. This is considered a particularly auspicious time for Lao men to enter the monkhood and is marked by numerous ordination ceremonies.
The Khao Phansaa is the beginning of the traditional three month “rains retreat” during which Buddhist monks are expected to station themselves in a single monastery. This is also the traditional time of year for men to enter the monkhood temporarily, hence many ordinations take place.
The Haw Khao Padap Din is a sombre festival in which the living pay respect to the dead. Many cremations take place, with bones being exhumed for the purpose, during this time. Gifts are presented to the Sangha so that monks will chant on behalf of the deceased.
The Boun Ok Phansaa is the end of Buddhist Lent and the faithful take offerings to the temple. It is held during the ninth lunar month in Luang Prabang and the eleventh lunar month 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.
The Kammouan Festival is held in Sebangfai District. It includes exciting boat races on the Sebangfai River, a trade fair of agricultural products and local handicrafts. The festival includes traditional Lao music and dance performances, and citizens make offerings to the dead to share merit with them.
The Luang Prabang Festival includes boat races on the Mekong River and a trade fair in Luang Prabang City; during this festival, citizens visit local temples to make offerings to the dead to share merit with them.
The Champassak is held in association with Ok Pansa, which marks the end of the monks’ three-month fast and retreat during the rainy season; a long-boat racing competition is held in order to worship the river spirits.
The water festival held in Vientiane during Ok Pansa is spectacular. On the first day at dawn, donations and offerings are made at temples around the city; in the evening, candlelight processions are held around the temples and hundreds of colourful floats decorated with flowers, incense and candles are set adrift down the Mekong River in thanksgiving to the river spirits. The next day, a popular and exciting boat racing competition is held on the Mekong.
The Khammouan is a boat race held on the Sebangfai River as well as a trade fair of agricultural products, local handicrafts, traditional Lao music and dance performances. During the festival citizens donate offerings to the dead to share merit.
The Awk Phansaa 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 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.
The Bun Nam Water Festival is a second festival held in association with Awk Phansaa. Boat races 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 so that residents aren’t saddled with two costly festivals in two months.
The That Luang Festival & Trade Fair takes place in Vientiane. This religious festival is held in and around That Luang Stupa, the national symbol of Laos, where hundreds of monks gather to accept alms and floral arrangements from the people; the festival includes a grand fireworks display at night, and a trade fair showcasing Lao products takes place during the day.
The Boun That Luang is celebrated in all Laos’ Thats (stupas) although most enthusiastically and colorfully in Vientiane. As well as religious rituals, most celebrations include local fairs, processions, beauty pageants and other festivities worth seeing.
The That Luang Festival takes place in Vientiane. Hundreds of monks assemble to receive alms and floral votives early in the morning on the first day. There is a colourful procession between Wat Si Muang and Pha That Luang. The celebration lasts a week and includes fireworks and music, culminating in a candlelit circumnavigation of That Luang.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN INDONESIA
- January 1
New Year’s Day
- January 20
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
- February 17
- March 10
International Women’s Day
- April 14, 15, 16
Lao New Year
- May 1
International Labor Day
- May 26
- July 4
- September 1
- October 9
Boat Racing Festival
- October 13
- November 6
That Luang Festival
- November 11
- Novermber 27
- December 2
Lao National Day
- December 25