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Festivals & Events in Laos

Festivals in Laos are mostly linked to agricultural seasons or Buddhist holidays. The word for festival in Lao is bun. Most of festival dates change according to the lunar calendar, though even these are not set in stone and some festivals are celebrated at different times depending on where you are. All of this makes advance planning difficult. The government tourism website (www.tourismlaos.gov.la) has more details and lists the current year’s dates for the larger celebrations.

JANUARY
1. International New Year (1-3 January)
2. Public Holiday
3. Bun Khun Khao (mid-January)
The annual harvest festival sees villagers perform ceremonies offering thanks to the land spirits for allowing their crops to flourish.

FEBRUARY
4. Makha Busa (Magha Puja or Bun Khao, Full Moon)
This commemorates a speech given by the Buddha to 1250 enlightened monks who came to hear him without prior summons. Chanting and offerings mark the festival, culminating in candlelit circumambulation of wats throughout the country. Celebrations in Vientiane and at Wat Phu are most fervent
5. Vietnamese Tet & Chinese New Year
Celebrated in Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet with parties, fireworks and visits to Vietnamese and Chinese temples. Chinese-and-Vietnamese-run businesses usually close for three day.

MARCH
6. Bun Pha Wet 
This is a temple-centered festival in the Jataka or birth-tale of Prince Vesantara, (the Buddha’s penultimate life is recited. This is also a favored time for Lao males to be ordained into monkhood.

Festivals & Events in Laos

APRIL
7. Bun Pi Mal (Lao New Year, 14-16 April)
Practically whole country celebrates the Lao New Year. Houses a cleaned, people put on new clothes and Buddha images are washed with lustral water. In wats, you’ll see fruit and flower offerings at altars and votive mounds of sand stone in the courtyards. Later, people douse one aim and sometimes random tourists with water, which appropriate activity as April is usually the hottest f the year. This festival is particularly picturesque in Luang Prabang, where it includes elephant procession and lots of traditional costuming. The 14th, 15th, 16th of April are public holidays.

MAY
8. Visakha Busa (Visakha PuJa, Full Moon)
This Mid 15th day of the sixth lunar month, which is considered the day of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away. Activities are centered on the wat, with much chanting, sermonizing and, at night beautiful candlelit processions.
9. Bun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) 
This is a pre – Buddhist rain ceremony now celebrated alongside Visakha Busa in Laos and northeastern Thailand. It can be one of the wildest festivals in the whole country, with musk, and folk theatre (especially the irreverent performances), processions and general merrymaking all culminating in the firing of bamboo rockets  is supposed to prompt on to the heavens to initiate the rainy season and bring needed water to the rice fields.

JULY
10. Bun Khao Phansa (Khao Watu, Full Moon)
This is the beginning of the traditional three-month “rain retreat” during which Buddhist monks are expected to station themselves in a single monastery.

AUGUST/ SEPTEMBER
11. Haw Khao Padap Pin (Full Moon)
This somber festival sees the living pay respect to the dead. Many cremations takes place-bones being exhumed for the purpose – and gifts are presented to the Buddhist order so monks will chant on behalf of the deceased.

OCTOBER/ NOVEMBER
12. Bun Awk Phansa (Ok Watsa, Full Moon)
At the end of the three month rain retreat, monks can leave the monasteries to travel and are presented with robes, alms-bowls requisites of the renunciate life.
13. Bun Pha That Luang (That Luang festival, full moon) Pha That Luang in Vientiane, this Increasingly commercial celebration lasts a week and includes firework and drinking across the capital. There is also procession between Pha That Luang and Wat Simuang.

DECEMBER
14. Lao National Day (2 December)
Celebration is mandatory; hence many poorer communities postpone some of the traditional Awk Phansa activities until national day, saving themselves considerable expense.

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