7 Must-Visit Traditional Festivals in Laos

National holidays and traditional festivals take an important part in Lao culture. It would be an exciting experience if you could visit Laos on a festive occasion. Check out the top festivals in Laos and get ready to celebrate!

Pi Mai

Lao New Year also called Pi Mai or Songkran is celebrated in Laos from April 14-16. This festival officially lasts three days long, but it is usually celebrated in a full week and includes huge water fights, where people get wet with water and flour in the streets by strangers. On this occasion, Laotians dress in traditional masks retelling the history and folk tales of Laos and Buddhism as well as clean the temples and their homes for the New Year. Beauty parades, Baci ceremonies, traditional music, and dance round out the festivities.

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Pi Mai Festival in Laos

Boun Bung Fai

Also called the Lao Rocket Festival, the date of this festival varies by region and even by village sometimes. The festival is celebrated in May, June, and July. Villagers offer up to the spirits to end the hot season and bring on the rains by launching homemade rockets. Winners are those whose rockets fly highest and burn brightest. On the other hand, losers are thrown in the mud. Audiences watch the show, hear the judge's comments as well enjoy the food.

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Rocket Festival in Laos

Boun Khao Phansa

Khao Phansa Day is the first day right after the full moon of the eighth lunar month and marks the beginning of the three-month rainy season. This is also the time monks and novices to start of Buddhist lent. They have to return to their home temples and hundreds of young men take up the cloth as novices, to earn merit for their families and show their devotion to the Buddhist tenants. All weddings on this occasion are put on hold until October. The offerings such as intricately folded banana leaves and marigolds are brought by the faithful to the temples for the monks to the hope of receiving blessings.

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Boun Khao Phansa in Laos

Hmong New Year

Mid-December means New Year celebrations for Hmong people, an ethnic tribe living in Northern Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. On this occasion, they don their best clothes and silver jewelry. Carnival games, singing and dancing, and lots of tasty food are part of the celebration. The Hmong courtship ceremony is an important part of the New Year celebration–in a game called pov pob, young people toss cloth balls back and forth to get to know one another and find would-be partners.

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H'mong New Year in Laos

Lao National Day

December 2, 1975, the monarchy of the Pathet Lao (literally "the Lao people," the name of the Communist Party) was abolished and the beginning of the people’s democratic republic. Since then, on this day every year, it is Lao National Day, which is a celebration of the Communist party. Citizens wear their ethnic clothing or government uniforms and join political gatherings at dawn.

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Laotian celebrate the National Day with firework

Boun Ock Phansa

At the end of Buddhist lent in October, Boun Ock Phansa is celebrated with boat racing, especially in Mekong River towns like Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Parades are held on the streets with elaborate floats that are eventually taken to the river as offerings to the naga, or mythical water serpents. Donations are given to the monks, who resume their social responsibilities out of the temples.

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Boat racing in Boun Ock Phansa, Laos

Haw Khao Salaack

Buddhists in Laos celebrate Haw Khao Salaack during the full moon in September. People go to the temple with offerings for their deceased loved ones. They also bring food, candles, incense, and money for other spirits. By mollifying the spirits and ensuring they are resting peacefully, it’s more likely the spirits will keep an eye on those still living and not cause trouble.

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Haw Khao Salaack, Laos

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