23 October 2016

Festivals in Laos

One of my favourite things about Laos is that they’re always looking for any excuse for a celebration. From personal celebrations, like Bacis, to national holidays, such as Pii Mai (Lao New Year), Boat Racing Festival, the Candlelight festival, Hmong New Year to name a few. Laos is also more than happy to celebrate international days, typically by having the day off work, like International Women’s Day, World Teachers Day and International Children’s Day, it's probably not long till Laos starts having the day off for International 'Talk Like a Pirate' Day.

As you might expect, all of the National Laos Festivals have a purpose linking back to ancient Lao culture. Typically originating from Laos' Animist roots, the majority of festivals now contain some sort of Buddhist element, blending together the two traditions.
One of the most common celebrations you might see in Laos is a Baci Ceremony. These ceremonies take place for all significant social occasions, such as birth, marriage, departure, arrival, sickness, or simply for good luck, with the purpose to reinvigorate the soul. In the Animist tradition, it is believed that the body, mind and psyche are divided into thirty-two parts. Each of these parts has a spirit (khuan) which from time to time often wanders away from the person. A Baci ceremony is conducted to bring the khuans back to the person allowing them to face life as a whole. During the ceremony, white Baci strings are tied around guests wrists, while wishes of health and prosperity for the future are made. At this point, it is customary for the strings to remain on the wrist for three days to ensure that the wishes come true.
During my short time here in Laos, I have attended numerous Baci Ceremonies, including those to celebrate a newborn baby (click here to read about it), a Hmong wedding, a building blessing, a birthday celebration and a leaving party. Bacis are a great way to socialise and meet new people, they're also a great excuse to eat and drink a lot.

Over the last few months numerous festivals have taken place in Laos, namely Boat Racing Festival and the Candlelight Festival. Blogs for these are coming, I am just waiting on a couple of guest entires.

Luke T.

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