Events & Festivals in Laos
Laos has many festivals, or Boun scattered throughout the year to commemorate various aspects of traditional Lao lifestyle and culture. Most festivals are connected with religion and follow the rice farming seasonal cycle. The timing each festivals is calculated according to the Buddhist lunar calendar which changes every year. Please check the latest information before attending these events.
International Labor Day (May Day) - 1 May
This international holiday is observed on May 1st. It is most commonly associated as a commemoration of the achievements of the labor movement. International Workers’ Day (also known as May Day) is a national holiday. During this day, houses display flags, especially the communist one, relatively discreet for the rest of the year. On this particular day, administrations are all closed. For info, if the Worker’s day falls a Saturday or Sunday, the next Monday will be a holiday.
Boun Visakhaboucha - 4 May
Falling usually on the fifteenth day of the sixth lunar month, this festival celebrates the birth, death and tatsahou (enlightenment) of Buddha. Devout Buddhists will rise early to make merit at temples. In some temples, Buddhists will perform Wien Tien (a candlelight procession) in the evening, which includes carrying candles, incense and lotus flowers and walking clockwise for three times around the sim, or main sermon or prayer hall.
Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) 26-29 May
Held just before the rainy season, Boung Bang Fai is a rainmaking and fertility festival. The people will gather for a wild and happy ceremony involving music, dance, and street processions; culminating in the firing of rockets. Rockets are lit in an effort to tempt the gods to produce rain needed for rice cultivation and also to send the naga from the river bank into the rice field in order to attract the rain.
Traditionally, rockets are made by stuffing gunpowder into elaborately decorated bamboo. But today, many different materials are used, including glass or metal piping. They come in a variety of sizes from very small to very large. When ready, the rockets are carried to a communal launch-pad. There are numerous types, each serving an individual purpose. The rocket designed to carry prayers to the rain god during Boun Bang Fai, is known as a Hang or Meun-Saen. The Ma is used to mark the passing of someone important. And Chi Nay, Ta Lai and Phu, mark the beginning of important ceremonies and festivals.
On the day of the festival, the Boun Bang Fai becomes a fiercely contested competition, in which bamboo rockets are generally only allowed to enter. First, each rocket is inspected and categorized. Scores are given for the highest flyer, the most beautiful decoration, and the most entertaining team; a category in which just about anything goes, from elaborate masks to men wearing women’s clothes, while women dance and sing. If any of the rockets fail to explode, the team’s technician and leader are forced to drink muddy water or Satho (rice whisky).
Throughout the celebrations, hosts prepare a variety of traditional food for their guests. These days, the size and location of the event is controlled due to numerous safety concern, including limited space and overlaps with aircraft routes. But nevertheless, most continue to celebrate the festival in one way or another.