If you are planning to travel to Laos it is worth trying to take some time to enjoy these special times with the locals, who will welcome your joining any festive event. But be prepared to find towns you might be expecting to be peaceful, to be a lot noisier and more crowded during these times, especially during Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year in mid-April) in Luang Prabang, Boat Race Festival in Vientiane in October and the Wat Phou festival in Champassak in February. Many smaller festivals occur in villages and provinces around the country all year depending on the ethnic group living in the area.
Below listing the major festivals in order of occurrence throughout the year.
1, Boun Pha Vet-January
This temple centered festival cerebrate the birth of Prince Vessanthara, the Buddha’s penultimate existance. The jataka or birth story of Buddha is recited. This is the favored time for Lao men to become ordained as a monk. Festivities are staggered between villages so that different villages can visit one another to their celebrations.
2, Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar (Full Moon) – February
This celebration commenorates a speech given by the Buddha in which he laid down the first monastic regulations and predicted his own death. The speech was heard by 1250 enlightened monks who arrived without prior summons.
The festival is to celebrate with chanting and presenting offering carious Vat throughout the country. The biggest celebrations take place at the Khmer ruins of Vat Phu Champasack.
3, Boun Pi Mai (April)
Pi Mai means “new year” and it is the time when the Lao cerebrates the start of their Lunar calendar year. Practically, the entry country grinds to a half for the festivities. Houses are cleaned, people wear new clothes and Buddha images are washed with holy water and this festival makes one of the best time to visit Laos.
4, Boun Visakha Bu Saar (Full Moon) – May
Starting on the day of the sixth lunar month, this cerebration commemorates the birth, enlightenment and parinibbana (death) of Buddha. The festival is based and visitors can see chanting and sermonizing at night followed by beautiful candlelight processions.
5, Boun Bang Fai “Rocket Festival” – May and September
Various villages throughout the country take part in one that most boisterous festivals on the Lao calendar. This festival dated back to pre-Buddhist times and featuring home made rockets that are fired into the clouds to ask for rain as well as it amidst a great deal of raucous chanting and merry making.
6, Boun Khao Salak (Rice) – September
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. 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.
7, Boun Ok Phansa and Boat Racing Festival – October
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.
8, Boun Khathin – October
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.
9, That Luang Festival and Trade Fair in Vientiane Capital – November
his 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.
10, Lao National Day (2nd December – public holiday) – December
This celebrates the 1975 victory of the people over the monarchy. However it is mainly a day for government events and public participation is limited to flying the Lao and Communist flags.