Laos New Year Festival – Bunpimay (aka Pi Mai, Pee Mai, or Koud Songkran) takes place from April 14 to April 16 every year. This is the Laos New Year Festival according to the Buddhism Calendar because Buddhism has long been the national religion in Laos for decades. On the festival, people douse water on each other to pray for luck, peace, and prosperity for a whole year. Like the events of Thailand and Cambodia, Bunpimay or Songkran is meaningful and enjoyable, bringing wealth and health to all living creatures on this earth. In addition, it helps reinforce and cultivate the national art and culture in Laos.
The Celebration of Laos New Year Festival Bunpimay
The New Year Festival in Laos often occurs in a period of 3 days on 14-16 April, when the large rivers become abundant with water, symbolizing the luxuriant year. On the first day of the festival (or the last day of the previous year), the Laotians will do the cleaning of their houses and the surrounding to make things clean and neat for welcoming the Happy New Year. On the second festive day, people enjoy waiting for the transforming milestone from the old year to the new one. On the third work-free day, lots of exciting activities are performed. In the 3-day duration, the Locals will not work or have any trading. All they need to do are to celebrate the New Year via some interesting events like watering each other, building the sandcastle, releasing creatures, giving fresh flowers to the Buddha images, eating Laap, tying the wrists by cotton threads, etc.
The Remarkable Rituals in Bunpimay New Year Festival in Laos
Water festival is the most dynamic and exciting occasion for the overseas guests to attend the crowd. As noted, on the first day of Bunpimay, people will do the cleaning to make their houses clean, fragrant, and neat. The fragrant water is made from the flower, garlic, cream, powder, etc. In the afternoon, they gather at the pagodas to do homage to the Buddha images, listen to the monks’ teaching, and pray for the goodness. After that, the Buddha images are brought to the separated compartment which is kept open for pilgrims to wash them, respectfully. The fragrant water, already used to wash the sacred Buddha images, can be taken home to apply on the skins which are believed to bring luck and happiness. To show respect and love, the young people will throw water to the elders, wishing them longevity and health. Friends douse water on the others to exchange the best wishes. The Laotians believe that water can help to erase the badness, sickness, and evil spirit. Water brings the healthy, pure, and lucky statues to the receivers. The more water you get, the happier you will become. On the side belief, it’s said that the water ritual in Laos was because of the hot weather (in fact, April is the hottest month in Laos). Before people throw water to each other, they exchange the beautiful wishes and nice words.
Building sandcastle is the other meaningful ritual in Bunpimay. The sand should be taken in the pagodas’ grounds and decorated before showing to the monks. The sandcastle should be decorated with flags, flowers, white fabric strings, and fragrant water. In the light of the Buddhism stories, the sand castle represents the Phoukaokailat Mountain in which the mythological daughters do homage to their father to wish for wealth and health in the New Year.
Next, the ritual that guests appreciate in Laos Bunpimay is the good deed of releasing creatures. The turtles, fish, crabs, birds, eels, and other small species will be set free in the New Year Festival. It’s interesting to know that some people will release a number of animals equivalently to their ages.
The other beautiful ritual is giving the fresh flowers to the holy Buddha images. In the afternoon, the monks and villagers will pick fresh flowers and give them to the Buddha. While picking flowers, people are likely to play drums and some traditional musical instruments. Then, the careful participants are in charge of washing the fresh and colorful flowers to make them as clean and beautiful as possible to give to the consecrated images.
Eating Laap is the traditional ritual in Laos. The Laotians stress on the importance of eating Laap on the occasion of the New Year, especially to the businesspeople. In the Laos’ language, “Laap” means luck and prosperity. In this rustic country, Laap is cooked from the spiced chicken or beef. Often, people enjoy Laap with the hot sticky rice, and every family should have this dish on the festival days. According to many cultural experts, Laap is considered as the culinary soul of the Laotians in the New Year. The locals can even take it as the gift to give the neighbors and relatives. The more Laap a family receive, the more luck and prosperity they will get in the coming year.
Tying wrists with the cotton thread is an exceptional trait of culture in Laos. In the New Year Festival, guests who come to the local houses first will be welcomed by the beautiful ritual: tying wrists with the blue or red threads. The color embodies the happiness and health. So, if you are lucky enough to experience this ritual, enjoy it.
Furthermore, some other rituals to do on Bunpimay include giving fabric and scarves to the elders, boat racing, lively parades, etc. There are some parades in each region, but the most famous one is the Nangsangkhane in Laos Luang Prabang. The most well-known parade in the Laos Capital lets everybody welcome the New Year in the positive and happy mood.
Travel to Laos and Attend Bunpimay Laos Festival
Let’s mingle with the most enjoyable time of the year in Laos via Bunpimay! Together with the locals, you celebrate the Laos New Year with water, beautiful flowers, etc., wishing for the full-of-luck and happy year. The Laotians are so friendly that makes you feel homelike and comfortable to enjoy the event to the perfection during Laos tourism. Be prepared to welcome the good wishes via water throwing. Arrange a private tour to Laos, and that is absolutely best if you can attend Bunpimay Laos New Year Festival!