The ethnic diversities of the country mark the popular festivals of Laos, which in general are linked to Buddhist celebrations. At the same time, festivals related to the harvest and cycles of nature also take place. Whatever the case, in any of the events in Laos there is always an abundance of music, food and rice liqueur.
When you are getting ready for your trip, don’t forget to check the calendar of events of the area. The popular festivals in Laos are really worth a day since it's the best way of getting to know the country’s culture. Below, you have a summary of the most important festivals of Laos by month.
January - Pha Wet
In January Pha Wet is celebrated, a popular festival linked to Buddhist tradition. During this festival, the life of Buddha as Prince Vessantara is commemorated. Invitations are exchanged with friends and families between the different villages to take part in the celebrations.
People get together in the temples to listen to the story of Buddha being told, it is also an appropriate time for those who want to be ordained as a monk.
February - Magha Puja and Elephant Festival
Magha Puja or Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar, takes place in February, during the full moon. Amongst the popular festivals of Laos, this festival commemorates the moment when more than a thousand monks spontaneously turned out to receive the original teachings of Buddha.
During the festival, large processions take place, they carry candles and surround the temple. Meanwhile, they recite prayers and religious songs to earn merit from Buddha.
The Elephant Festival is a celebration in honour of the national animal of Laos, which is known as the ‘Land of a Million Elephants’. This is a fun-filled festival where beautifully decorated elephants compete to be named ‘elephant of the year’. Expect to see majestic processions, dance and folk performances and Buddhist ceremonies, all in celebration of these gentle giants.
March and April - Boun Khoun Khao
During the month of March, Boun Khoun Khao takes place, the harvest festival. In different villages of the country, they celebrate different events to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest.
On the other hand, Boun Pi Mai is one of the festivals of Laos that takes place during the month of April. It is a Laos New Year celebration and is a perfect mix of joy and meditation. There are processions, dances, singing, and the statues of Buddha are decorated for the water ceremonies. Taking part in this celebration brings with it good fortune and health.
May - Boun Bang Fai
The festival of Boun Bang Fai has its origins in the ancient rain ceremonies. This is another of the popular festivals of Laos where you will see processions, dances and traditional songs. The festival culminates in enormous bamboo rockets which are blessed and launched towards the sky to attract the rain.
June and July - Khao Phansaa
Also during the month of June and until the beginning of September, Boun Bang Fai continues to be celebrated in different villages. If you travel to the country during these months, you will be able to go to one of the most joyful and fun popular festivals of Laos.
In July, the Khao Phansaa festival takes place which marks the start of the three months of Buddhist Lent. This festival starts with the full moon in July and continues until the full moon in October. This entire time is favourable for becoming a monk, so it is habitual for it to be full of numerous ordination ceremonies.
August - Boun Haw Khao Padap Din
In August, the inhabitants of Laos celebrate Boun Haw Khao Padap Din, one of the more intimate festivals of Laos, which is dedicated to remembering and paying respects to deceased family members.
Perhaps it is one of the more peculiar of the popular festivals of this country, since during the festival, the buried bodies are exhumed in order for their remains to be cleaned. Next, they cremate them under the full moon. The family of the deceased, take presents to the monks who have recited the name of the deceased during the ceremony.
September - Boun Khao Salak
In September, amongst the events in Laos that you can attend, is Boun Khao Salak. This festival has boat races and offerings to ancestors. An agricultural fair is also organised with local handicraft stalls, music and dance.
October - Boun Khao Salak
You will be able to go to Boun Awk Phansaa if you travel to Laos in October. This celebration marks the end of the three months of Buddhist Lent on the day of the full moon. The monks, who until then are not able to leave the temples, take presents to their families.
On the eve of Awk Phansaa you will be able to go to one of the popular festivals in Laos with the most charm. During this night, people get together by the closest river to free hundreds of small boats of banana leaves decorated with candles, incense and flowers.
November - Boun That Luang
November is the month of Boun That Luang, this festival is traditionally centred on the That Luang in Vientiane. Numerous fairs, beauty competitions, music, fireworks take place during the whole week of the full moon. The celebrations end with a procession with candles around the That Luang temple.
December - National Day of Laos and Luang Prabang Film Festival
The National Day of Laos is celebrated in December, specifically on the 2nd December. If you travel during this month to this beautiful country, bear in mind that many establishments may be closed.
Now you just have to note down in your calendar the popular festivals of Laos that you want to get to know and plan your trip to coincide with them.
For lovers of foreign cinema, this is a fantastic open-air cinema festival, which is free to the public. The festival showcases the best new Southeast Asian films of the year and shows them in wonderful locations across the city, all in the open air, making for a unique viewing experience.