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Las Traditional Festivals

In addition to the many traditional festivals celebrated on a nationwide basis, there are also a number of important regional festivals, linked mainly to religious ceremonial and often involving traditional performances, sports and games.

LNTA images 110In addition to the many traditional festivals celebrated on a nationwide basis, there are also a number of important regional festivals, linked mainly to religious ceremonial and often involving traditional performances, sports and games.
There follows a list of the more important national and regional festivals:

Boun Khoun Khao (Boun Khoun Lan)
January-February, two days
This nationwide rice harvest fesival is held in villages around the country. A baci ceremony is performed in order to give thanks to the land.

Lunar New Year
January-February, one week
Lunar New Year is celebrated around the country by the Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Laos. Firecrackers explode thoughout this holiday and mouthwatering cakes and sweetmeats are made especially for the occasion.

Boun Wat Phu, Champassak Province
LNTA images 111February, one week
Commencing on the full moon of the third lunar month (usually in early February), the residents of Champassak celebrate the traditional Wat Phu festival in the grounds of the Wat Phu Champassak temple complex. The festivities include elephant races water buffalo fighting, cock fighting and many traditional performances. A trade fair showcasing products from the southern provinces of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vi?t Nam is also held.

Boun Khao Chi
February, two days
Held on the third full moon of the lunar calendar, this nationwide festival involves a morning ceremony at the wat in which a special type of bread made of sticky rice is offered.

Boun That Phon, Savannakhet Province
February, one day
According to local legend, That Phon was originally built in 236 BCE by Sondeth Phaphouthavongsa of the order of Phaya Sithammasokrath and is one of the most sacred stupas in Savannakhet Province. Each February at full moon the That Phon Festival is held here.

MOIC images 11Boun Phrawetsandone
March, three days
This nationwide three-day and three-night festival is a religious occasion celebrated to commemorate the virtue and charity of Prince Vessantara. During the festival monks recite the jatakaPhravetsandone. The festival is also an occasion for senior abbots to ordain new monks. tale

Boun Phimai Lao
Mid April, three days
Culturally related to songkran in neighbouring Thailand, Lao New Year is celebrated nationwide at the same time each year. On 13 April Buddha images are taken out of the wats to be cleansed with scented water by devotees and placed on temporary altars within the watwats. In Luang Prabang the festival also features a beauty contest with the crowning of Nang Sangkhan (Miss Phimai).

Boun Bangfai
Mid May, one day
LNTA images 112Held at the eve of the planting season, the nationwide Rocket Festival is held to coax rain and fertility back to the earth. The festival commences with a morning ceremony praying for rain at the wat. Then in the afternoon people gather in fields on the outskirts of the villages and towns to launch home-made rockets amidst scenes of great revelry. Villages compete for the 'best decorated' and 'highest travelling' rocket. Men disguised as women perform a ritual dance involving wooden phalluses in order to anger the gods; as revenge, the gods are expected to send thunderstorms. Performances of lam are often featured, Beginning in around mid May, the festival is staggered from place in order to ensure greater participation.

Boun Visakhabousa
Mid May, one day
This nationwide festival celebrates the day of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing away. Held during the sixth full moon of the lunar calendar, it involves chanting, sermons and a candlelit procession to the wats.

LNTA images 114Boun Khao Pansa
Mid July, two days
Held during the eighth full moon of the lunar calendar, the countrywide Khao Pansa Festival marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent, a time of austerity when monks are confined to their own wat where they fast and spend most of their time in prayer and meditation. At dawn on the first day, hundreds of worshippers flock to the wats carrying silver bowls full of offerings and gifts for the monks, mostly women wearing vividly coloured silks. They then perform the rituals of tak baat (offering gifts to the monks) and yaat nam (pouring water into the ground to ensure that the offerings benefit one's ancestors).

Boun Phrabat, Borikhamxai Province
July, two days
This full moon festival, held at Wat Phrabat Phonesane in Paksan, Borikhamxai Province, marks the start of Buddhist Lent.

Boun Haw Khao Padabdin
August-September, two days
LNTA images 115Starting on the 15th day of the ninth lunar month, in the middle of the rainy season when the land is lush with greenery and fruits, the nationwide Khao Padabdin Festival is held in commemoration of dead ancestors. Over two days Buddhist devotees flock to the wats carrying silver trays of offerings for monks and deceased ancestors. Music is traditionally performed in the grounds of the wat while people make their donations. In Luang Prabang the festival also features long boat racing competitions (see Boun Souang Heua, Luang Prabang Province below).

Boun Souang Heua, Luang Prabang Province
Mid-late August, two days coinciding with Boun Haw Khao Padabdin
Held to coincide with the nationwide Khao Padabdin Festival, this local festival features boat racing on the Nam Khan River and a trade fair in the centre of Luang Prabang.

Boun Haw Khao Salak
Mid September, one day
LNTA images 116Held during the tenth full moon of the lunar calendar, this nationwide festival involves offerings to dead ancestors in order to gain merit. In many provinces long boat racing competitions are also held, the largest being that in Khammouane Province (see Boun Souang Heua, Khammouane Province below).

Boun Souang Heua, Khammouane Province
Mid September, one day coinciding with Boun Haw Khao Salak
Held to coincide with the nationwide Khao Salak Festival, this local festival involves long boat racing on the Sebangfai River, a trade fair of agricultural products, local handicrafts, and traditional music and dance performances. Local people donate offerings to dead ancestors in order to gain merit.

Boun Ok Pansa and Boun Souang Heua (Boat Racing Festival)
Mid October, two days
LNTA images 117Held to celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent, the nationwide Ok Pansa Festival starts at dawn on the first day with donations and offerings made at wats around the city. Then in the evening candlelight processions are held at wats, and in a ceremony known as boun lay heua fai (equivalent to loi krathong which the Thai people celebrate in December) hundreds of colourful paper boats decorated with flowers, incense and candles are set adrift on the Mekong River to pay respect to the river spirit and eradicate bad luck, bad deeds and disease. On the following day in Vientiane, Savannakhet and Champassak Province, boat races are held on the Mekong River.

Boun Kathin
October-November, one month
This nationwide festival begins immediately after the last day of Lent and lasts until the next full moon, and features the ceremonial offering of robes and other items to monks. The word kathin describes the wooden device used for keeping the robes taut while they are being made.

LNTA images 118Boun Phra That Luang
November, three days
This national religious festival is held in and around the sacred That Luang Stupa in Vientiane, where hundreds of monks gather to accept alms and floral offerings from the people. In the daytime the festival features an international trade fair, showcasing tourism in Laos and other ASEAN countries.

Boun That Muang Sing (Boun That Chieng Theum), Luang Namtha Province
October-November, two days
Held at the That Chieng Theum stupa, just south of the provincial capital of Muang Sing, this festival finds devoted worshippers paying their respects with offerings of candles, flowers and incense.

Nor Chia (Hmong New Year)
LNTA images 119November, one week
Celebrated in all Hmong communities around the country commencing with the full moon in November, this festival is celebrated particularly in Oudomxai, Xieng Khouang, Luang Prabang and Vientiane Provinces, where special celebrations are held involving colourful displays of traditional costumes, music from traditional Hmong instruments, the mak khon (cotton ball) throwing ceremony, crossbow ceremonies and traditional games such as ox fighting and spinning top races.

Lao National Day
2 December
Lao National Day commemorates the founding of the People's Democratic Republic of Laos on 2 December 1975.

Boun That Inhang, Savannakhet Province
Early December, four days
This local festival is held annually in the grounds of That Inhang, which is located 12 kilometres north of the provincial capital of Savannakhet. The festival includes performances of traditional Lao music and dance as well as a sports competition featuring football, boxing, tennis and local traditions including a drumming competition. In recent years an international trade fair has been organised to coincide with the event, featuring exhibitions of products from Laos, Thailand and Vi?t Nam.
 
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