Lao New Year, also known as Pi Mai Lao, is a traditional festival celebrated in Laos in mid-April, marking the start of the Lao calendar year. The celebration usually lasts for three days, from April 14 to 16, and is a time for family reunions, paying respects to elders, and splashing water on each other. This year it’s starting on the 11th and finishing on the 19th. Prepare to get wet!
The festival is observed all over Laos, but the most significant celebrations take place in the capital city of Vientiane and the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang.
The celebration starts with the cleaning of homes and temples to symbolize the purging of the old year’s misfortunes and welcoming the new year’s blessings. People also give alms to monks and visit temples to make merit and offer food to Buddha images. This is followed by the pouring of water on Buddha statues and monks, a ritual believed to cleanse away sins and bring good luck.
One unique aspect of Lao New Year is the building of sand stupas. Stupas are sacred structures in Buddhist culture that represent the Buddha’s enlightenment. During the festival, locals build sand stupas and decorate them with colorful flags and flowers as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the year ahead.
The water festival is the most exciting part of Lao New Year, where people splash water on each other as a symbol of washing away bad luck and bringing good luck and prosperity in the coming year. This tradition also serves as a way to cool down during the hot and dry season of April. Splashing extends to the use of hoses and buckets, you will get wet!
In addition to lots of water games, Lao New Year is also celebrated with traditional music and dance performances, sports competitions, and beauty pageants. People wear their best traditional outfits, and many vendors sell street food, sweets, and souvenirs. Beerlao sponsors large parties under a tent cover, complete with sprinklers just to keep you wet.
If you’re planning to visit Laos during Lao New Year, make sure to book your accommodations and transportation in advance, as the festival attracts a large number of visitors. It’s also advisable to bring waterproof bags or clothes to protect your belongings during the water festival.
Lao New Year is a vibrant and joyous festival that celebrates the country’s rich cultural heritage. It’s a time for families and friends to come together, give thanks, and usher in the new year with hope and happiness.