Laos is a land of festivals and celebrations. The people love any excuse to have a party or family get together, but while they are all celebrated with enthusiasm, the majority of these festivals are based in the Buddhist faith that dominates the country and hold an important religious significance for Lao people.
There are a total of 15 Public Holidays in Laos ranging from harvest festivities, rain-making ceremonies to religious observations. So relax and join in the fun because in the typical manner of Southeast Asia these Public Holidays are a bundle of colourful fun.
Bun Pha Vet celebrates the jataka or birth-tale of Prince Vestsantara on January, the Buddha’s penultimate life. It is also considered particularly auspicious time for ordination as a monk.
This day is celebrated on the full moon of the third lunar month and commemorates the preaching of Buddha to the 1250 enlightened monks who came to hear him “without prior summons”. It involves a vien tien – a candlelight procession – around most wats.
The Wat Phu Festival
This religious festival is held at the pre-Angkorian Wat Phu site every year in Champassak province about 10 hours drive south of Vientiane. It is held on the full moon of the 3rd month of lunar calendar (in 2012 it falls on 6-8 February). A trade fair of products from the southern province of Laos,Thailand,Cambodia and Vietnam is also held.
The Elephant Festival
The elephant festival is organized annually in Xayaboury province. More than 50 elephants and their mahouts from around the area gather to demonstrate working techniques and all things elephantine. Homestays are available.
Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year)
This is the biggest festival of the year all around the country. It is partly a religious festival as it is the time Buddha images are cleansed, but is it also an all-out water festival. For three days be prepared to get wet wherever you go as water is thrown on everyone.
This day is considered the day of Buddha’s birth, enlightment and death. It falls on the 15th day of the waxing moon in the sixth lunar month and is celebrated with ceremonies and candlelit processions in the temples.