New Year’s Day is a time of resolutions and starting fresh for some, while for others it is spent recovering from a big, late night spent with friends and family.
In Laos, the Gregorian Calendar New Year and the Lao New Year are both celebrated. The latter takes places across three days in mid-April, while the former, of course, is on 1 January.
While Lao New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years, the people of Laos now also celebrate Gregorian New Year with fireworks, New Year resolutions, shopping sprees, and the whole package of traditions imported from the West.
New Year’s Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed. While December 31st is not traditionally a big holiday in Laos, Westerners wanting to celebrate will be able to find booze-fueled countdown parties organized by beer companies like Beer Lao and Heineken.
In Vientiane, the Cultural Hall parking lot turns into a street festival with lights, DJs and vendors selling food and drink to revelers awaiting the countdown at midnight. Some Western restaurants in Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang will have New Year’s Eve dinner menus, stay open until midnight and include a champagne toast.
While much of the Western world sleeps in on January 1st, hungover from a night of partying, Lao people enjoy day drinking and are more likely to invite their friends and family to their houses to eat, drink and be merry. Bring some fruit and beers along and you’ll certainly be invited to join in the festivities. Be prepared for lots of toasts, food and laughter. Lao people are known to throw a great party for any occasion.