Buddhism is an important part of Laotian culture. Throughout the country, you can admire temples, meet monks in their orange robe or attend traditional rites. For example, the alms giving ceremony occurs every morning at dawn. But more important events are held all year round. Have you ever heard of the Buddhist Lent? Or the festival of lights? Many celebrations mark the year of the believers. Interested? We tell you everything in this article. Enjoy the reading !
Boun Khoun Khao
After the rice has been harvested, this festival is organized to thank the spirits of the earth and ensure that the next harvest will be good. In towns and villages, festivities are organized in the houses. People sit around a bouquet of flowers called Pha Khouan. The village elder will lead a Baci ceremony and weave white cotton strings around the wrists of others to wish them happiness and good luck. Offerings such as Mekong fried fish, papaya salad or rice alcohol are made at the altar of the spirits.
Boun Pha Vet
This festival takes place in the temples. Monks tell the story of Prince Phravet Santara for 3 days. It is a sacred moment because it is considered the ideal time for ordination as a monk. During the festival, the believers organize Baci ceremony, prepare traditional dishes and spend good times with family and friends.
Boun Makha Bousa
This festival takes place during the full moon. It commemorates the speech that Buddha gave to 1250 monks. The festival is marked by huge parades of believers and monks walking around local temples with candles in their hands.
Boun Pi Mai Lao
This is the Buddhist New Year Festival. Usually held in mid-April, it lasts 3 days. This date corresponds to the beginning of the rainy season and thus highlights the importance of water in people's lives. It is also a purification festival where statues and paintings of the Buddha are cleansed with sacred water. This precious liquid is then used to water the other festival-goers to purify them and bring them luck for the year to come. In Luang Prabang, the whole city turns into a giant water battle, it is an incredible experience.
Boun Visakha Bousa
This festival takes place on the 15th day of the 6th lunar month and celebrates the birth, death and awakening of the Buddha. Processions of believers with candles in hand take place in the evening.
Boun Bang Fai
It's the festival to call for rain and fertility. Held just before the rainy season, it is a convivial and festive ceremony during which we dance, we listen to music and we walk in the street. The highlight of this event is the firing of rockets to call the rain necessary for growing rice. The Nagas (divinity of the water looking like a snake) are also asked to go from rivers to rice paddies. This festival is held in Muang Nan District, 3 hours south of Luang Prabang.
Boun Khao Phansa
Held at full moon, this festival marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent. For 3 months, the monks will stay in temples to meditate during the rainy season. Novices and monks swear to stay together in the pagodas and leave it only in case of extreme need.
Boun Khao Padab Dinh
According to the lunar calendar, this event can be held in August or September. In the morning, Laotians visit the temples to make offerings to their ancestors. In the afternoon, a wooden pirogue race is organized on the Nam Khan River. Some of them can host up to 55 rowers! The whole city lives at the pace of the competition.
Boun Khao Salak
Organized at full moon, donations are made to a particular monk who has been selected by a lottery system. He is given daily products such as books, pencils, sugar, coffee, etc ... This ritual brings merit to believers who make these gifts. This is one of the most important celebrations of the year for Buddhists.
Boun Ok Phansa (light festival)
Held at full moon, at the end of the rainy season, this ceremony marks the end of Buddhist Lent. The monks can then leave the temples to join their families. They are welcomed with gifts and food. The festival is accompanied by releasing of candles on the river at nightfall.
In Luang Prabang, the whole city is adorned with lights and the temples are decorated with lanterns.
There is also a parade of legendary "light boats" made of bamboo, paper and illuminated with many candles. These are then left on the Mekong as an offering to the spirits. Flowers are also offered to the aquatic deities to avoid bad luck and also to thank the Nagas.
Boun That Luang
Boun Pha That Luang is Vientiane's most important festival. It takes place over three to seven days during the full moon of the twenty-fifth lunar month. It begins with a colorful procession. Believers carry flowers, candles, incense and wax castles adorned with flowers and bank notes. Men and women dance and play traditional music. The next morning, at dawn in Pha That Luang, a crowd gathers to give alms to hundreds of monks from all over the country. In the afternoon, everyone will gather on the esplanade for the traditional game of Tikhy, a variant of hockey. The festival ends with a firework.
As you can see, Laos lives to the rhythm of Buddhist celebrations. All year round, these ceremonies are an opportunity to ask for luck, to honor his ancestors, to improve harvests, etc ... We would like to thank the tourism office for his help in writing this article. When visiting Luang Prabang, we recommend you to get their booklet "A guide to Luang Prabang, the land of a million elephants". And if you want to start planning your trip to Laos, do not hesitate to contact us. See you soon!