Laos festivals and celebration occur monthly. In general, Lao people like to party and they enjoy festivals as long as possible. The majority of festivals in Laos linked to agricultural seasons or historical Buddhist holidays since Laos is a poor country where the majority of production is crop, as well as the main religion here, is Buddhism. This also is reflected significantly in many aspects of Lao lifestyle. Here is the list of the 21 most important festivals and celebrations in Laos.

Laos festivals chart

*Note: Many Laos festivals do not have an exact day because they follow the Lunar calendar, which transfers to different days every year in The Gregorian calendar.

Laos festivals and public holidays

Major Annual Laos Festivals and Holidays

So, what are the most important Laos festivals?

January 1: International New Year Day

Even though New Year Day is a western holiday, it is more often adopted as a Laos festival and celebrated by Lao people and South East Asian. On this day, Laos people are likely to invite friends coming over to eat and drink. If you are invited, bring some beers, fruits or food and join the celebration. Usually, on this day, the hotels price will be higher than normal days.

New-Year-Eve-celebration-in-Laos
New Year Eve celebration in Laos

January 20: Armed Forces Day

The Armed Forces Day in Laos is very similar to the Veterans Day of the United States or Remembrance Day in many nations. This is the day for people to honor their military forces. For Lao people, it is a public Laos holiday to remember the creation of the independent Lao army on January 20, 1949.

Late January – Early March: Boun Khoun Khao

Laos-festival--Boun-Khoun-Khao-celebration
Laos festival – Boun Khoun Khao celebration

Boun Khoun Khao means “Rice Festival”. It usually takes places around the capital of Vientiane (the city nearby the bank of Mekong River). This is the day to express appreciation for the spirit and the rice harvest. The time of this festival is based on Buddhist lunar festival. On this day, a “Baci” ceremony is performed to give thanks to the land, where a senior in the village will tie a white cotton string around villagers’ writs and pray for their happiness. Then a lot of river foods will be offered such as fried river fish, papaya salad and rice alcohol (to express appreciation to the Mekong River for giving them sufficient crop and pray for the next harvest).

February: Kud Chin and Kud Viet

Laos-festival---Chinese-New-Year
Laos festival-Chinese New Year

This is the day for Chinese and Vietnamese people staying in Laos to celebrate their Lunar New Year. There will be parties, fireworks and merit making at Chinese and Vietnamese temples all around the country. In recent years, this is the time many Chinese and Vietnamese traveling here to celebrate Tet. For that reason, hotels price rise higher and rooms are often fully booked.

Learn about how Vietnamese Tet (Lunar New Year) is celebrated.

February: Boun Makha Busa

On the third full moon day of the month, this Laos festival will be held as a remembrance to the speech given by Buddha to the 1,250 enlightened monks in which he has set out the first series of monastic regulations and predicted his own death. This day will be celebrated with chanting and offerings at temples thorough the country. People who go to the temples will walk around the Wat three times with candles. Also on this day, Lao people will make Boun Khao Chi (a special bread of sticky rice) to offer the monks.

February to March: Boun Wat Phou

Laos-festival---Wat-Phou-Champasack
Laos festival-Wat Phou Champasack

This Laos festival is taken place in Chapasack Province on the 15th day of the 3rd month of Laos lunar calendar. Wat Phou Champasack is the most famous Hindu temple complex built in Laos under the Khmer Empire. This festival is to honor to all people that have contributed to this ancient architecture.It will be held for 3 days or 7 days. There will be traditional music, dance, sports. Especially on the last day, there will be parade of elephant or horses. The senior dignitaries and religious figures will travel here to take part in a traditional Tak Bat.

March 8: International Women’s Day

In the beginning, this day is only celebrated in communist countries to remember the day women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8. Later on, it was adopted in 1975 by the US. This is also a Laos public holiday where all administration closes down.

Late March: Boun Pha Vet

This Laos festival is also call Thet Mahachat, held on the full moon day of the 12th lunar month. This is a Buddhist festival widely celebrated in Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka. It celebrates Buddha’s previous incarnation before being born as Prince Siddhartha. On this day, the monks give a sermon of all chapter of the Vessantara Jataka (the life story of Lord Buddha as Prince Vestsantara).

April 14-16: Buon Pi Mai

Laos-festival---Boun-Pi-Mai-1
Laos festival-Boun Pi Mai

Pi Mai or Songkran is Laos New Year, celebrated from April 14th to April 16th. It is one of the most spiritual and important event of Laos festivals. Despite the fact that this festival is official three days long, it usually last for a week. Traditionally on this day, Lao people splash water on the street and other people (including strangers) as a cleansing ceremony.

Laos-festival---Buon-Pi-Mai-2
Laos festival-Buon Pi Mai

In big cities, especially Luang Prabang and Vientiane, people will dress in traditional masks to retell the history and folklore of Laos and Buddhism. Also, people will clean their homes, wear new clothes and wash their Buddha mages with holy water on these day as well as making offerings at temples. During this time, it is normal to expect traffic jam on many major roads in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

May 1: International Labor Day

This is the day widely celebrated around the world, including Laos. It is a Laos public holiday when all administrations are closed.

Mid May: Boun Bang Fai

Laos-festival---Rocket-festival
Laos festival-Rocket festival

Boun Bang Fai or Rocket Festival is a Laos ritual to call for rain as well as a celebration or fertility. For May is the driest time of the year. In the afternoon on this day, people gather in the fields nearby the village to launch their self-made firework rockets. The rockets usually are made by stuffing gunpowder into decorated bamboo. Each village will also put together a committee to judge and give out prizes for the best rockets. Also, the hosts will prepare a variety of traditional food for their guests and visitors.

Late May: Boun Visakha Bousa

Boun Visakha Bousa celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha. It is held on the 15th day of the sixth lunar month.

Mid July: Boun Khao Phansa

This is a Laos festival marking the beginning of the Buddhist Lent (an annual three months rains retreat for monastics). After this day, the monks will stay in their own temples to study the Buddha’s teachings as well as meditating. In the early morning of this day, Lao people prepare foods and necessities (soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and towels…) to donate for the monks.

Late August or early September: Haw Khao Padap Din

This celebration hold the meaning to remember the dead. On this day, people will prepare a lot of Khao Tom (Steamed sticky rice pack) to make offerings to monks, then put in the temples, four corners outside one’s house, house’s gate,… so that the spirits could reach them. The idea is to show respect not only to one’s own ancestors but also the dead with no relatives.

Mid September: Boun Khao Salak

Laos-festivals--laos-khao-salak-baskets-of-offering
Laos khao salak baskets of offering

This is also a day to honor the deceased. It takes place 15 days after Haw Khao Padap Din. Lao people will prepare a basket filled with food and daily amenities such as soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper… along with the names of the dead person in the family. Family will give this basket to the monks so that the monks could transfer these items to the dead through prayers. Afterward, the items are shared among the monks and novices.

Mid October: Boun Ork Phansa

This Laos celebration marks the last day of Buddhist Lent. In the morning, Lao people from across the country will go to temples and present offerings of money and food to residents monks. In the evening, candles will be lid around temples. People will send small boats made of banana leaves carrying candles down the Mekong. This ritual is believed as a mark of respect to Buddha and to thank the mother of rivers for providing precious water. It is a very memorable moment for visitors to observe the river illuminated with lighted small boats.

Late summer / Early fall: Boun Song Hua

This Laos festival is a boat racing celebration occurring annually at the end of Buddhist Lent. Spectacular canoe races will be held in big cities such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Champassak…

Full moon in early November: That Luang Festival

This is Vientiane’s most important celebration to show honor to the national symbol of Laos, the Golden Stupa Pha That Luang. The ceremony will last three days during the full moon of the 12th lunar month.  On this day, Lao people nearby Vientiane will proceed to the Great Stupa with their best clothes. The group, on reaching the stupa, will be led by a monk chanting the ancient words of Buddha. Then, they will walk around it three times slowly.

Laos-festival-That-Luang-Vientiane
Laos festival-That Luang Vientiane

The next morning, people will bring their offerings inside the cloister, preparing to make offering and listen to prayers from the monks. In the afternoon, people will gather on the esplanade to watch the traditional game of Tikhy (very similar game to hockey). The area get most crowded in the last days of That Luang festival.

Late November: Hmong New Year

There are many Hmong people living in Northern Laos. On these days, Hmong people will wear their best clothes and silver jewelry. They will celebrate this occasion with carnival games, singing, dancing and eating lots of delicious food. An important ceremony of Hmong New Year celebration is Pov Pob, where young adults tossing cloth balls back and forth to find their potential partners.

laos-festival---hmong-new-year
Laos festival-Hmong new year

December 2: Lao National Day

This is the day to celebrate the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1975. There will be parades and fairs in major cities and towns.

December 24: Christmas

Christmas is the Christian’s celebration of the birth of Jesus and has been adopted by Laos as a national public holiday in recent years. Despite the fact that this is a Buddhist country and Christian community hold 2% of the population, this holiday’s context is widely recognized by most Laotians. For non-christians, this day is a day to enjoy the decorations on the street and spending time with their families. If you’re looking to celebrate in a low-key way without the commercialism, crowds or gaudy displays of lights, consider a holiday away in Laos. Usually during this time the hotels price will be higher than usual days.

More Laos travel tips for you:

 

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Glad to meet you, my name is Victor. I love traveling to new lands and learn about different people and cultures. Besides that, I like basketball, huskies, EDM, film editing, and programming as well.

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