Laos celebrates many annual festivals called "Boun", which are particularly enjoyable and beautiful, signifying traditional aspects of Lao lifestyle. Most festivals are connected with religion and the yearly rice farming cycle. The timing of the festivals is calculates according to the Buddhist lunar calendar.
January 12-14 January 2006
The That Inhang Festival in Savannakhet Province
This festival will be held on the grounds of the splendid That Inhang Stupa which is located just outside the city of Savannakhet Province. An international trade fair will include exhibitions of tourism products from Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The fair will also include the performance of Traditional Lao music and dance, as well as a sports competition featuring football, boxing, tennis and local traditions, including a drumming competition.
The Boun Khoun Khao or Khoun Lan (Rice Ceremony)
This is a harvest festival held at Songkhon District in Savannakhet Province. "Basi" ceremony is performed in order to give thanks to the land .
13-15 February 2006
The Boun Khao Chi (Makhaboucha)
This ceremony is held at the "Wat" (temple) in the morning, when a special "bread made of sticky rice" is offered. This festival is held during the third full moon of the lunar calendar.
Sikhottabong Festival in Khammouane Province: This traditional religious festival is held at Sikhottabong Stupa, located about 8 kilometers to the South of Thakhek town. The stupa was built between the 9th and 10th Century by King Nantahsena and was restored to its original grandeur during the 1950's.
The Wat Phou Festival in Champasack Province
This festival is held during the third full moon of the lunar calendar on the grounds of the enchanting pre-Angkorian Wat Phou ruins in Champasack. Festivities include elephant races, buffalo fights, cock fighting, traditional Lao music and dance performances. To coincide with the festival, a trade fair is also held to showcase products originating from southern Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
The Boun Pha Vet
This is an offering ceremony where a donation is made and one's future is read during the three day-three night festivals.
The Boun Pi Mai - Lao's New Year (14-16 April )
Lao New Year is celebrated at the same time each year (April 13-15). This year, the 16th is the first day of the New Year. On the 13th, Buddha images are taken out of the temples to be cleansed with scented water by devotees, and placed on special temporary altars within the compounds of "wats" (temples). Devotees gather the scented water falling off the images, to take home and use it to pour on friends and relatives, as an act of cleansing and purification before entering the New Year. On the evening of the 15th, the images are returned to their proper shriners within the temples. Boun Pi Mai is a time for much joyous celebration, with good deeds and prayers in anticipation the New Year.
The Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)
This ceremony praying for rain is performed at the temple in the morning. In the afternoon, people gather in fields on the outskirts of villages and towns to launch the rockets with much abandoned revelry. Villages, communities and departments compete for the "best decorated" and the "highest traveling" rocket. Beginning around the middle of May, the festivals are staggered from place to place enable more participation and attendance. This is the time when an offering to the spirits can be made in a corner of one's garden, early each morning.
The Boun Visakhaboucha Festival
This festival is held during the sixth full moon of the lunar calendar for the Buddha. Candlelight processions are held in temples to mark the birth date of Buddha.
The Boun Asalahaboucha and Boun Khao Pansa (Buddhist Lent)
This is the beginning of Buddhist Lent. During the next three-month period, monks spend most of their times in prayer and meditation and are restricted from spending nights in other "wats". This festival is held during the eighth full moon of the lunar calendar.
The Boun Khao Padabdin (Rice) and Boat Racing Festival in Luang Prabang
At the Khao Padabdin ceremony day, people visit local temples to make offerings to dead ancestors as well as to share merit-making. This festival includes boat racing on the Nam Khan River and a trade fair in Luang Prabang World Heritage town.
The Boun Khao Salak (Rice)
This is for offerings to be made for dead ancestors to obtain merit. Popular and exciting longboat-racing competitions are held to celebrate the River. This festival is held during the tenth full moon of the lunar calendar.
The Boat Racing Festival in Khammouane Province
This is held on the Sebangfai River. At the same occasion a trade fair of agricultural products, local handicrafts, Traditional Lao music and dance performance are organized. In this festival, citizens donate offerings to dead ancestors to gain merit.
The Boun Ok Phansa and Boat Racing Festival
The festival held after the end of the monks’ three-month fast and retreat during the rainy season (Boun Khao Pansa). At dawn on the first day, donations and offerings are made at temples around the city. In the evening, candlelight processions are held at temples and hundreds of colorful floats decorated with flowers, incense and candles are set adrift down the Mekong River to pay respect to the river spirit. The following day in Vientiane, Savannakhet and Champasack Province, a popular and exciting boat racing competition is held to celebrate the Mekong River.
The Boun Khathin
This festival begins immediately after the last day of Lent, and lasts until the next full moon. During the one month period, devotes of the Buddhist faith help the monks to carry out their religious practice by making offerings of all their 9 requisites and other useful items .
The That Luang Festival and Trade Fair in Vientiane Capital
This religious festival is held in and around That Luang Stupa, the National Symbol of Laos, where hundreds of monks gather to accept alms and floral votives from the people. The festival includes a grand fireworks display at night. During the day, an international trade fair, showcasing tourism in Laos and other countries from ASEAN and the Greater Mekong Sub-region. During the same period a similar festival is also celebrated at Ching Tim Stupa in Luang Namtha Province.
The Hmong New Year : This festival is held in Oudomxay, Xieng Khouang, Luang Prabang and Vientiane Province (between mid December until January)
This year, the Hmong New Year celebration features colorful displays of traditional costumes made from green, red and white silk and ornate silver jewelry. Music from traditional Hmong instruments such as the teun-flute, Hmong-style khene pipe and leave blowing is enjoyed. Other festivities include the Makkhon (cotton-ball) throwing ceremony, ox fighting, spinning-top races and crossbow demonstrations.