EVENTS & FESTIVALS

Laos celebrates many annual festivals called “Boun” in the Lao Language 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 calculated according to the Buddhist lunar calendar, thus changing every year.

JANUARY

International New Year’s Day
Date: 1st January 2019
Venue: Nationwide

Boun Phabath Phonesan Stupa Festival
Date: 17th – 20th January 2019
Venue: Bolikhamxay Province

This is the most significant event of Bolikhamxay Province when they celeblate the old stupa and give respect to Buddha’s footprint in Thaphabath District. The Pphabath Phonsan stupa Festival is held over three to seven days during the full moon of the second lunar month (January). The festival includes a Buddhist ceremony, trade fairs, concert, and fun fairs arranged around the grounds of the stupa. 

FEBUARY

Boun Pha That Sikhottabong Stupa Festival
Date: 14th – 19th February 2019
Venue: Khammouane Province

Sikhottabong Stupa festval is held annually during the full moon in February and it is celebrated over several days. Sikhottabong stupa is a piece of old architecture in thakhek District, Khammouane province. In the full moon of the third month, the annual rite is organized by the Khammouane people. People of north eastern Thailand, Nakhorn Phnom, and nearby the provinces come and gather for stupa worshipping and entertainment. This is a special time to pay homage to one of the most sacred Buddhist stupas in the region. During the festival, there are religious activities along with a local trade fair and performances held around the stupa.

Wat Phou Festival
Date: 14th – 19th February 2019
Venue: Champasack Province

This is the largest festival in Champasack Province and one of the largest festivals in the entire country. It is held annually on the grounds of the enchanting pre-Angkorian remains of Wat Phou in Champasack. This festival attracts thousands of people each year, who come for prayer ceremonies and to enjoy the festivities. There is elephant racing, buffalo fighting, cock fighting and performances of Lao traditional music and dances. There is also a trade fair showcasing the products from the southern provinces of Laos, and from the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Feb Festival
Date: 16th February 2019
Venue: Sangthong District, Vientiane Capital

The Elephants Festival 
Date: 20th – 27th February 2019
Venue: Sayabouly District, Sayabouly Province

As living icon with important symbolic connotations and historical association in Laos the elephants an animal dear to the heart of the Lao people. The Elephant Festival is celebrated specifically in Xayabouly Province and is held to demonstrate culture and traditional ties between Lao communities and elephants, as well as drawing attention to the endangered status of this charismatic species. The Elephant Festival is a free, all-ages event with activities including a majestic elephant procession with up to 100 elephants, a traditional elephant Baci ceremony, fruit and flower offerings, monks’ blessing, mahout and elephant show. In addition, there are live performance from Lao and foreign artist, a night market and outdoor elephant museum. Visitors will have the opportunity to see documentary film on a large outdoor screen and enjoy live performance on the main stage or go for an elephant drive in the neighbouring forest.

MARCH

Vientiane International Half Marathon
Date: 3rd March 2019
Venue: Vientiane Capital

Start training for one of the best running races in Laos. Yes, Vientiane International Half Marathon 2019 (VIHM) is coming. This year race will be held on Sunday March 3, 2019. The distances of 21 Kilometer, 10.5 Kilometers, and 5 KM will take place in the heart of Vientiane Capital, Laos.

International Women’s Day
Date: 8th March 2019
Venue: Nationwide

Boun Khao Chi (Makhaboucha)
Date: ….. March 2019
Venue: Nationwide

Boun Khoa Chi is one of the most important Buddhist Festival celebrate on the full moon day of the lunar month in Laos. A ceremony is held throughout the country at the vat(temple) in the morning when a special ‘bread’ made of sticky rice, coated with egg and then grilled, is made and offered to the monks. In the evening, temple are full of the people listening to sermons. They often perform a ritual activity known as Wien Tien, or the candlelight procession ceremony, where they walk clockwise for three times around the main sermon or player hall with candle, incense and flower. The spiritual aims of the day are not to commit any kind of sins; do only good things;   and purify one’s mind. It is an occasion when Buddhist tent to go to the temple to perform merit-making activities

Boun Khoun Khao or Khoun Lan (Rice Ceremony)
Date: ….. March 2019
Venue: Nationwide

This is a harvest festival. A ‘Baci’ ceremony is performed in order to give thanks to the land.

Boun Phavet
Date: ….. March 2019
Venue: Nationwide

King Phavet reigned over his father’s kingdom as a benevolent monarch, giving away all his possessions-jewelry, clothes, horses and livestock-except a single elephant.

One of his villages, Gadinkha, was suffering from drought that had dried up their lakes and rivers. The starving citizens asked King Phavet for help, but all he had was his elephant, which he bestowed upon them. However, the gesture didn’t solve their crisis.

The villagers became angry, and complained to Phavet’s father. This upset the old king, who banished Phavet, his wife Madthii, and children to the forest. While there, Phavet met a group passing by, and they asked Phavet to give them Madthii. He agreed and handed her and their two children over.

A few months later, rains started falling on Gadinkha, and the villagers began growing rice and vegetables again. They eventually realized Phavet’s elephant had brought them luck, so they brought the animal to the old king and told him the news. This heartened him, and he summoned Phavet to return and retake the throne. After his death, Phavet was reincarnated, married, and had a son, but he divorced his wife and became a monk, and attained enlightenment.

APRIL

Lao Coffee Festival
Date: …………. April 2019
Venue: Vientiane Capital

Pimai Lao/Lao New Year 2019 in Luang Prabang
Date: 13th – 16th April 2019
Venue: Luang Prabang Province

Lao New Year begins at the same time each year and lasts for three days (April 14th-16th). It is one of the most important dates in the calendar as well as being a time of celebrate and endless fun. The festival is held before the onset of the rainy season to recognize the importance of water in people’s lives. It has also become synonymous with holiday, the celebration of Lao identity, the reinforcement of family bonds and an opportunity to reflect on the year ahead. Lao New Year celebrate in all Provinces, especially in Luang Prabang Province and Vientiane Capital. It is also a purification festival during which the Buddhist images in the household and the temples are ritually cleaned with sacred water.

The first day (14th) is the last day of the old year. House and villages are properly cleaned on the first day. Perfume, water and flowers are also prepared for the Lao New Year. Buddhist images are taken out of the temples to be cleaned with scented water by devotees, and placed on special temporary altars within the compounds of Vats (temples). Devotees gather the scented water falling of 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. The second day (15th) of the festival is the “day of no day”, a day that falls in neither the old year nor the New Year. The last day (16th) of the festival marks the start of the New Year. In the evening of the 16th, the images are returned to their proper shrines within the temples. Throughout the three days of the festival, a lot of meaningful and joyful activities are held nationwide, mainly basic or Soo Kwan (tying cotton strings around people’s wrists), water splashing, sand stupa building and a beauty pageant.  

MAY

International Labour’s Day
Date: 1st May 2019
Venue: 
Nationwide

Boun Visakhaboucha
Date: 18th May 2019
Venue: Nationwide

Visakhaboucha Day is significant religious festival in Buddhist calendar, falling usually in May on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month. When a year has an extra eighth lunar month-Adhikamasa (13 full moon in the year), Boun Visakhaboucha on the full moon of the seventh lunar month (June or July). Boun Visakhaboucha is a meaningful milestone in Buddhist calendar, because is mark the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Devout Buddhists will rise early to make merit at temples. In some temples, Buddhists will perform Wien Tien (Candlelight procession) in the evening, which includes carrying candles, incense and lotus flowers and walking clockwise for three times around the sim, or main sermon or prayer hall.

Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)
Date: Begin of May – the end of June 2019
Venue: Vientiane Province (Phon Hong District) and Nationwide

Boun Bang Fai is festival held to call for rain and celebrate fertility. The date of the festival is fixed by each province. During the festival, there are a variety of fun activities, particularly a traditional dance which is performed in a circle. Men will wear traditional Lao women’s clothes and cosmetics as people tie the clothes on each other. In the afternoon, people take artificial elephant and hors walking around the host village. Afterwards, people gather in the field on the outskirts of village and towns to launch self-made firework rocket. The village that is able to launch its rocket the highest up in the sky is the winner. The rocket competition is held in order to demonstrate appreciation to “Payathaen” (god Of Sky) who provides people with the rains necessary for agriculture. Throughout the celebrations, hosts prepare a variety of traditional food for their guests.

JUNE

International Children’s Day and National Tree Planting Day
Date: 1st June 2019
Venue: Nationwide

JULY

Asalahaboucha Day and Boun Khao Phansa Festival (Buddhist Lent)
Date: 16th July 2019
Venue: Nationwide

Boun Khao Phansa is held at the beginning of the Buddhist lent. Over the following three month, monks spend most of their time in prayer and meditation and are restricted from spending nights in other temples out of their own. Many devout people often abstain from alcohol during this time. In the early morning of Boun Khao Phansa, people prepare donations of food, especially “Khao Tom” (cooked sticky rice wrapped in banana leave) and necessities like soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and towels for the monks. Most temples are busy during this time with people making merit and giving their donations. At the end of these merit making activities, the monks will recite the teaching of Buddha and tell the history of the Buddhist Lent to temples-goers. Later in the evening, monks, novices cannot leave their monasteries to become lay-people and traditionally lay-people are not allowed to get married until the end of the Buddhist Lent or Ork Phansa.

AUGUST

Local Textiles to Fashion
Date: ….. August 2019
Venue: Vientiane Centre, Vientiane Capital

SEPTEMBER

Boun Khao Salak Ancestor Festival 
Date: 13th September 2019
Venue: Nationwide

This festival occurs during the 10th full moon of the lunar calendar. The purpose of the festival is to obtain merit by providing offerings to dead ancestors. The offerings to the dead are passed to monks during the morning ceremony at the temple, just after almsgiving. A basket is filled with food and daily amenities such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, cigarettes, etc. along with the names of the dead people the family wish to honor. The monks or novice the basket, then draws the name\s from the basket. In the evening at 7pm to 8pm, it is the for a candlelight procession (Wien Tien). Afterwards, the candles, incense the flowers are placed near the side of the Sim.

Boun Khao Padabdin (Rice Growing Festival)  
Date: 29th September 2019
Venue: Nationwide 

Boun Hor Khao Padabdin (the literal translation is decorate (padab) dirt\earth (din))starts in the middle of the rainy season. This festival is held in commemoration of dead ancestors. Over two days, Buddhist devotees flock to the Vats (temples) carrying strays of offerings for monks and deceased ancestor. Music is traditionally performed in the grounds of the Vat while people make their donations. During Boun Khao Phansapadabdin, each household cooks a number of “khao Tom” to give to relatives and friends and some are reserved for giving alms to the monks. In the early morning at 4am to 5am, people place the “khao tom” and other food wrapped in banana leave or lotus leave in the four corners outside one’s house, the stairs, the spirit house, the rice storehouse, and on the gate, as well as on the ground so that the sprit can reach them. It is also the time to shoe respect to “Mae Thoranii” (the Earth God).

Boat Racing Festival
Date: 29th September 2019
Venue: Luang Prabang Province

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.

OCTOBER

National Teacher’s Day
Date: 7th October 2019
Venue: Nationwide

Naga Rocket
Date: 13th October 2019
Venue: Bolikhamxay Province

The fireballs coming out from the water’s surface can be seen once a year on the last night of the Lao Buddhist Lent. The Naga Rockets can be spotted where the Nam Ngum and the Mekong river meet in Thaprabath District, Bolikhamxay Province, as well as in Pak Ngum District, 60 kilometers east of Vientiane.

Boun Ork Phansa (The end of buddhist lent)
Date: 13th October 2019
Venue: Nationwide

Boun Ork Phansa is the last day of Buddhist Lent. It occurs on the 15th day of the 11th month of the lunar calendar. In the morning, donations and offering are made at temples around the country. In the evening candlelight processions are held around the temples while hundreds around of colorful floats decorated with flowers, incense and candles are set adrift down and rivers giving thanks to the river spirit (Lai Heua Fai). They are said to pay respect to the Buddha and to thank the mother of rivers for providing water for our lives as well as to ask for blessing and to float the bad luck for the past year away, enabling the good luck to flow in. Villagers who live far from rivers set up model boat made of banana stems and decorated with flowers and candlelight, while other simply light up some candles in front of their houses and do their prayer, wishing for good luck. This colorful ritual has been carried on by Lao people for thousands of years.

Lhai Heua Fai (Festival of the Boats of Light)
Date: 14th October 2019
Venue: Luang Prabang Province

Boun Lai Heua Fai is a festival for the Phanang Naga which is held during Boun Xouang Heua in order to bring good luck. Each village in many provinces makes and decorates a boat. The boats are then paraded through the town, at night they are lunched onto the river and ceremoniously set on fire as offerings to spirits. This festival involves floating the ritual flowers onto the river, to send of bad luck and give thanks to the water spirits. When holding boat race, people ritually reclaim the land from the Naga, chasing them out from fields and streams and back into the Mekong River.

NOVEMBER

That Luang Festival and Trade Fair in Vientiane Capital
Date: 11th November 2019
Venue: Vientiane Capital

Boun Pha That Luang is the most meaningful festival in Vientiane Capital as well as in the Lao PDR. It is held over three to seven days during the full moon of the twenty-fifth lunar month (November, but sometimes it is at the end of October). The festival starts with a colorful candlelight wax castle (Phasat Pheung) procession which starts the evening before at Vat Simeuang. The procession continues to the next afternoon from Vat Simeuang to Pha That Luang. People carry flowers, candles, incense and wax castles decorated with flowers and bank notes. People wear their best clothes for this procession and there is also a parade of the men and women dressed in various Loa ethnic costumes who dance and play traditional music and songs while approaching the stupa. The s-called wax castles have been a part of Lao lifestyle for many years, and bringing one to Pha that Luang on this occasion is believed to bring considerable merit.
The following morning, a huge crowd assembles at dawn at Pha That Luang to give alms to hundreds of monks who come here from around the country, and to play homage to the stupa. In the afternoon, everyone will gather on the esplanade for the traditional game of Ti Khee, which is played with a ball and long curved stick, resembling a game of hockey. The festival draws to close under a full moon when people from all over Laos will crowd around Pha That Luang for one last candlelight procession. There are also fire work displays to make the end of the celebration. During the Pha That Luang stupa festival, there are trade fairs, concerts and fun fairs held.

DECEMBER

Lao National Day
Date: 2nd December 2019
Venue: Nationwide

This celebrates the 1975 victory ofthe proletariat over the monarchy with parades, speeches, etc. Lao national and communist hammer and sickle flags are flown all over the country. Celebration is mandatory, hence poorer communities postpone some of the traditional Ok Phansa activities usually practiced roughly a month earlier-until National Day, thus saving themselves considerable expense.

Vang Vieng Music Festival
Date: ….. December 2019
Venue: Vang Vieng District,  Vientiane Province

That Inghang Festival
Date: ….. December 2019
Venue: Savannakhet Province

The ritual ceremony is performed annually at the Pha That Ing Hang (Ing Hang Stupa), one of the most sacred stupas in Savannakhet Province and in Central Lao. In December people organize a festival to show their respect to Buddhism and to the people who built this stupa. Many people including the old and young come to the festival from south and north of Lao as well as from Thailand. People make offerings of Khanmarkbeng (a small green tower-like offering, which has good made of banana leaves and flowers) around the stupa. People also ask nuns who are around the stupa for blessings. The nuns give blessing to people by tying cotton strings around their wrists. Local people bring forest products like honey and traditional food as offerings.

Luang Prabang Film Festival
Date: ….. December 2019
Venue: Luang Prabang Province

The Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF) brings together the boldest storytellers and the most talked-about films in Southeast Asia. Our curators handpick these films from ten countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam), spotlighting them each year in the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang.

 

This inspiring environment, rich in culture, provides an ideal backdrop for artists and industry professionals to share their experiences and showcase their talent. It is a festival for the adventurous, and is quickly becoming known as one of the most alluring and exciting locations on the international film festival circuit.

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