Boun Pi Mai Lao – Laos New Year Festival
New Year is the most important festival in Laos. Laotian is called ‘Boun Pi Mai` which means ‘New Year Festival’.
The interesting fact is that Laos New Year does not follow the international calendar or Lunar Calendar at all. Laos New Year takes place from 14th to 16th April of the year and Laotian considers 13rd April is the last day of the old year. However, in Luang Prabang often cerebrate New Year from 11th to 20th Apr.
At first, Laotian chose 1st January as their New Year. However, at that time the weather is quite cold, which causes difficulties in carrying out the water-throwing custom. Therefore, they have changed the day to the hottest day of the year in the summer when the day is much longer than the night.
The first day (13rd Apr) of the Boun Pi Mai Lao (Laos New Year) is the last day of the old year. On this day, people will clean up everything in their house as a goodbye for old things in the last year and welcome new year. Laotian also prepares perfumed water and flowers for the second day.
People splash water each other, to ‘wash away’ any bad that relate to the past year and pray for the best thing in the new year. This is one of the highlight of festival. People even splash water each other from begin of the month. They suppose that wetter is happier.
The second day (14th Apr) of this Laos festival is the “day of no day” since it is a day that neither belongs to the old year nor the new year. In the morning, Laotian will parade to pagoda to listen to monks’ preaching and wash Buddha statue by prepared perfumed water. Pagoda will have a room for this Buddha washing for three days. Everyone can come and wash the Buddha statue for good luck in the new year.
In the afternoon, Baci ceremony is performed. Many people in Lao believe in kwan (spirits which live inside humans, animals, plants and inanimate objects). On the first day of the new year, the tradition is that the kwan might leave the body and be exposed to bad omens for the coming year. To make sure the kwan return to the body, a ceremony called Baci is performed. Chant are made by a village elder to make the kwan return to the body, then white thread is tied around wrists to keep the kwan inside and wish the kwan good luck for the year ahead.
A signal of the third day (15th Apr) is the parade featuring the winner of the Miss New Year beauty pageant.
Day three (16th Apr) will perform Takbat (the biggest procession of monks and alms giving) in the early. Continuing to parade with Miss Lao and Monks in the afternoon.