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Home Travel Guide Laos Travel Guide 10 Important Annual Festivals in Laos

10 Important Annual Festivals in Laos

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As one of the most peaceful and least explored countries on the planet, Laos attracts visitors from abroad for its beautiful natural sources and endless cultural charm. It is a landlocked nation that features ethnical diversity and Buddhism is considered the main religion of the country. As a result, Laos people take a lot of time to celebrate festivals related to Buddhism. During these festivities, travelers can not only indulge in the strong traditional atmosphere, enjoy authentic local food, and tasty drinks, but also explore and understand more about Laos culture and traditional lifestyle. Here we offer a list of the most important 10 annual festivals in Laos for your travel inspiration. Check it out in case you happen to visit Laos during these festivals!

Laos Boun Pi Mai Festival
Boun Pi Mai Festival

1. Bun Pha Wet Festival in January

The festival is also known as Boun Pha Wet, which is a religious festival that takes place on the fourth lunar month of the year, generally in January in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is set to commemorate the Buddha Jataka and keeps over three days and three nights. However, celebration dates vary in the month among different villages. During the festival, you will have a chance to hear about the life stories of Buddha Jataka when he was Prince Vestsantara. Monks also read sermons aloud in temples and devotees just gather together to listen to them very carefully. Locals often celebrate the festival together with close friends and relatives. It is easy for travelers to enjoy the cozy ambiance and some tasty traditional food.

2. Magha Puja Festival in February – Full Moon Festival

Magha Puja Festival is an important Buddhist festival widely celebrated in most southeast countries like Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar. It is also known as Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar or Full Moon Festival in Laos as it just takes place on the night of the full moon day in the third lunar month, generally February in the calendar year. It celebrates a time when 1,250 of Buddha’s first disciples gathered together to pay respect to him. The celebration activities on this day include candlelight processions, temples visiting, chanting, and other Buddhist activities.

Laos Magha Puja Festival
Magha Puja Festival

3. Vietnamese Tet and the Chinese New Year in Jan. or Feb.

Are you surprised about the celebration of the two foreign festivals in Laos? As there is a considerable number of Vietnamese and Chinese people in Lao’s capital city, Vientiane. The grand celebration of Vietnamese Tet and the Chinese New Year can be expected for travelers to visit in January or February. Both two festivals take place on the first day of the Lunar New Year. It is easy to experience the New Year atmosphere in cities like Vientiane, Pakse, and Savannakhet. Some old traditions like parades, fireworks, and temples visiting are also common. Nevertheless, you will not be so surprised when you see most Vietnamese and Chinese businesses closed during the festival.

4. Boun Khun Khao in March - Rice Harvest Festival

Boun Khun Khao is also known as Rice Harvest Festival and it is celebrated in most rural parts of Laos. The festival honors and commemorates the agriculture of Laos, which is also one of the most essential events throughout the country. Calculated on the lunar calendar, the festival mostly takes place in March when sacred traditional ceremonies can be observed in the countryside and old temples. During the ceremony, the village patriarch will tie a white cotton string to the locals’ wrists and pray for happiness. Many offerings like deep-fried fish and rice alcohol will be dedicated to express thanks to nature for the rice harvest. Generally, after the ceremony, there will be some entertaining activities like dancing and singing.

5. Boun Pi Mai in April – Laos New Year

Boun Pi Mai is Laos New Year Festival, almost the most significant event of the year, which is annually celebrated in mid-April. The festival lasts for three days officially but the celebration usually keeps for about a week. During the festival period, all local people clear their houses and go to temples to wash Buddha statues for getting rid of old spirits and welcoming good luck. As April is nearly the hottest month in Laos, the New Year celebrations involve some water activities like water throwing and this is also considered a way of calling for rain on scorching summer days. Just get yourself ready to take part in this interesting New Year festival with water.

Monks washing Buddha statues on Laos New Year
Monks washing Buddha statues on Laos New Year

6. Boun Bang Fai in May - Rocket Festival

Also known as Bun Bang Fai or Rocket Festival, this festival just takes place on the full moon in May and it is considered a ritual to call for rain and welcome the rainy season. So why is it called Rocket Festival? That’s due to an old tradition that people will gather together on this day to launch their large fireworks rockets into the air. The ceremony is generally set in the country’s rice fields and the fireworks rockets are made by stuffing gunpowder and bamboo. In many villages, locals will also gather to judge and pick up the best rockets. Colorful performances along with different traditional food can be enjoyed during the festival.

7. Boun Khao Phansa in July – Beginning of Buddhist Lent

Boun Khao Phansa Festival taken place in July represents the start of the Buddhist Lent which is also one of the best times for monks to enter monkhood. The festival usually falls on the day after the full moon day of the eighth lunar month, generally July in the Gregorian calendar. The traditional three-month monks’ retreat period will keep till the day in Laos known as “Phansa” and end in October. During the festival period, people will also welcome the monsoon season. Buddhist worshippers will travel from temple to temple to offer food, flowers, and incense. But monks are not allowed to travel to other temples except for some special circumstances and they need to study in their own temples.

8. Haw Khao Padap Din in Late Aug. or Early Sept.

Calculated on the Lao calendar, Haw Khao Padap Din takes place on the fifteenth day of the ninth month. The celebration for Haw Khao Padap Din is mainly to pay immense respect to the dead. Local people will prepare a special sticky rice pack called Khao Tom which is made with coconut milk and then wrap it in a banana leaf. People will give the sticky rice to monks, temples, relatives, and friends. A lot of offerings including Khao Tom will be put in four corners and the gate of locals’ houses. These are prepared not only for ancestors but also the spirits who have no families or relatives. In the evening, people will go to temples for an evening procession.

Laos Festival Boun Khao Phansa
Boun Khao Phansa

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9. Bun That Luang in November

Bun That Luang is a festival for Laos people to show honor and pay respect to its significant national symbol, the Golden Stupa Pha That Luang. There will be a grand ceremony during the festival and it keeps about three days during the full moon of the twelfth month in the lunar calendar. On the day of Bun That Luang, Lao people nearby and a lot of monks will gather at the great stupa. Local people will dedicate a lot of gifts and alms. What’s more, there will be an international trade fair taking place during the festival, as well as contests, music, fireworks, and an evening procession. Nearly all temples throughout the country will hold some vibrant festival activities.

People are celebrating Bun That Luang

10. Lao National Day on December 2

This is definitely a very important festival for Laos people. It is set to commemorate the establishment of the country as Lao People’s Democratic Republic was established in 1975 and the monarchy was abolished in the same year. To celebrate the great day, Laos people hold grand parades and fairs in large cities and major towns. Travelers may also witness speeches by Lao politicians. The festival is surely nation widely celebrated and the red national flags of Laos just fly everywhere.

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