Festivals in Luang Prabang

In Luang Prabang, the ritual cycle is dominated by Thervada Buddhist customs and traditions, integrated with tributes paid  to the animistic spirits (Phi) of the land and water. Because it is the traditional center of the region in Laos and the seat of the former royal family, annual festival (“Boun”) are often organized on a grand scale in Luang Prabang. Festivals are governed by different phase of the moon, but in general are held in the same month each year.

Festivals in Luang Prabang

January

  • Boun Khoun Khao –  Harvest festival, celebrated after rice has been harvested, in which a ceremony is held to give thanks to the spirit of the land and ensure the next harvest will be plentiful.
  • Boun Pha Vet - A temple based festival when jataka or story of Prince Vestsantara (the Buddha’s penultimate life) are recited. The festival lasts for three days and three nights. Visiting fortune teller are also a popular attraction at this time.

February

  • Boun Makha Bous’a - A temple – based festival held during the full moon commemorating the speech given by Buddha to 1,250 enlightened monks. Temple goers circumnavigate the Vat Three times with candles in a ceremony known as vien tian.Boun khao Chi - special bread of sticky rice, coated with egg and then grilled, is made and offered to the monks. This offering occurs during Makha bous’a, but is no longer widely practiced.

April

  • Boun Pimai – New year festival beginning in mid -April and last three days. Held before the onset of the rainy season, it recognizes the important of water in people’s lives. It’s also a purification festival during which Buddha images in the household and the temples are ritually cleaned with sacred water. The Prabang image is moved out of the national museum during the festival to be purified in the ground of Vat Mai. The water from cleaning ceremonies is then poured or splashed by people on to each other to clean them luck for the coming year. The most elaborate New year festival rites in Lao PDR are held in Luang Prabang with processions of the legendary guardian spirit of town. Traditionally, Boun Pi Mai also served to reaffirm Lao kingship.
  • Pimai Lao is officially stated as a three-day festival, the Luang Prabang style is often a full week activity.

May

  • Boun Visakha Bous’ a – Falling usually on the fifteenth day of the sixth lunar month, this festival cerebrates the birth, death and tatsahou (enlightenment) of Buddha.
  • Boun Bang Fai: This festival is a rain-making and fertility festival. Held justbefore the rain season, it is a wild and happy ceremony, involving music, dance and street processions, culminating in the firing of rockets.  Rockets are fired to tempt the gods to produce rain needed for rice cultivation and also to send the naga from the river bank into the rice field in order to attract rain. This festival is held in Muang nan District.

July

  • Boun Khao Phnsa – Organized on the full moon, this festival marks the beginning of Buddhist lent, the three month period of monastic seclusion and meditation during the rainy season, when monks are required to stay within their Vat. Monks are traditionally ordained, are expected to remain in the Vat for the entire three months.

August

  • Boun Khao Padab Dinh – Organized on the full moon. During this festival is held during the ninth Buddhist lunar month and is an important part of traditional agriculture cycle. The festival pays tribute to the naga, (mythical snake water deities) with the intention of attracting the naga from the inundated rice field back into the river. This festival also commemorates the end of the rainy season and brings luck for an abundant harvest. This festival is also including boat racing festival on the Nam Khan River.

September

  • Boun Khao Salak- Organized on the full moon, this festival involves the giving of offerings to a specific monk (decided by a lottery system). Offerings include daily necessities such as books, pen, sugar, coffee and cigarettes. Laypeople also give tung peng (wax flower candles) to the monks. This ritual brings merit to the givers.

October

  • Boun Ok phansa (Out of Buddhist lent) – Organized on the full moon, ending of the rainy season period of monastic seclusion. Monks who were ordained for the phansa period leave the Vat and rejoin families. This festival also involves launching candle-lit offerings on the river at night. For three months, Buddhist monks spend most of their time in prayer and meditation and area restricted from spending the night in other temples.
  • Boun Lai Heua Fai – A festival for the phanga naga to bring good luck. Each village makes and decorates a boat. These boats are then paraded through the town and at night are launched on the river and ceremonially set on fire as offerings to spirits. This festival involves the ritual flowers, onto the river. These offerings are launched at of bad luck and give thanks to the water spirits. On holding boat races, people ritually reclaim the land from the naga, chasing them out from fields and streams and back into the Mekong River.

December

  • Kin Chiang (“ Hmong new year”) In December the province’s various ethnic minorities, most notably the Hmong, celebrate the past year’s harvest and new lunar new year with weeklong festivals that feature music, dancing and special foods. This is an excellent time to see traditional dress, festive textiles, silver jewelry and traditional musical instruments.
  • Boun Pot Py or Boun Kreu (“khmu new year”):  this festival is also organized in December in every year, Boun pot py or Boun Kreu meaning is festival celebration of the year past for their harvest and welcoming for the new year. This events including: singing of the traditional song( Treum, Jeum…), dancing(Te kai), competition traditional sports, Khmu food and drink pottery alcohol (lao Hai).

 

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