Laos Festivals & Events

Laos Information

Laos festivals and events often commemorates Buddhism – the country’s main religion. Planning your holiday around a festival is one of the best ways to experience the local culture, as most temples are bustling with locals praying, chanting, and partaking in sacred ceremonies.  

There are over a dozen public holidays in Laos, ranging from harvest festivities and rain-making ceremonies to welcoming the New Year and temple-related celebrations. Many businesses and government offices are closed on these days, though you may find a couple that operates for several hours. So relax and join in the fun – Laos festivals and events are often filled with colourful parades, parties, and unique ceremonies.

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  Bun Pha Wet  

Bun Pha Wet falls on different dates each year, depending on the lunar calendar. This Laos festival sees people exchanging invitations with friends and families in different villages to join in their celebrations. 

It commemorates Jataka, which is the life story of Lord Buddha as Prince Vestsantara. The story is recited in temples throughout the country. Bun Pha Wet is also considered a particularly auspicious time for ordination as a monk.

  Magha Puja  

Magha Puja commemorates the original teachings of Lord Buddha given to over a thousand monks who came spontaneously to hear him speak.

Held on the night of the full moon, this festival is marked by grand parades of candle-bearing worshippers circling their local temples for merit making, as well as religious music and chanting.

  Tet & Chinese New Year  

Tet and Chinese New Year are celebrated in Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet. The Vietnamese and Chinese communities close their businesses for several days (sometimes a week) during this auspicious event.

Over the course of 3 days, they combine visits to temples and merit making with noisy parties and exploding firecrackers.

  Boun Khoun Khao (Rice Festival)   

Boun Khoun Khao takes place around the capital of Vientiane – the exact date changes according to the  Buddhist lunar calendar, but it’s usually in late February or March. This rice festival sees various ceremonies, including one that involves devotees gathering around a massive flower arrangement called Pha Khouan. 

A senior in the village will tie white cotton strings around the villagers’ wrists and pray for their happiness. Rice farmers also store unhusked rice in local temples as part of the celebrations.

  Pi Mai  

Pi Mai is a celebration of the Laos New Year, and takes place in mid-April. The official holiday is 3 days, but it often lasts for about a week. Similar to Thailand’s Songkran, Pi Mai in Laos sees vibrant parades, dancing, singing, and enthusiastic water throwing. 

The religious aspects of the festival are most apparent in Luang Prabang, where Buddha images are worshiped with water pouring ceremonies. Temple compounds are decorated with small sand stupas, which are offered as merit towards good fortune and health.

  Labour Day   Public holiday
  Visakha Puja  

Visakha Puja (Buddha Day) commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha in Laos. On this day, you’ll see local worshippers chanting and participating in candlelit processions at local temples.

This celebration also takes place in countries where Buddhism is prominently practiced. 

  Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)  

With its origins in pre-Buddhist rain-invoking ceremonies, Boun Bang Fai coincides with the Laos Visakha Puja celebrations. Parades, songs, dances and partying all lead to an explosive climax as huge, ornate, homemade bamboo rockets are blessed and fired into the skies to invite the rains. 

Rocket-makers earn both merit and honour if their creations fly high. This dramatic festival is also celebrated in the northeastern part of Thailand.

June and July
  Children's Day   Children’s Day takes place on 1st June, celebrating the importance of children in Laos. Programs include from cultural singing and dancing, fundraising campaigns, and kid-friendly competitions. Many of these activities are organised by local schools and NGOs as efforts to protect children’s rights and help them get a proper education.
  Khao Phansaa  

Khao Phansaa marks the beginning of the 3-month Buddhist Lent, which commences at the full moon in July and continues until the following full moon in October.

This event is considered a particularly auspicious time for Lao men to enter monkhood, and is marked by several ordination ceremonies.

  Haw Khao Padap Din  

Boun Haw Khao Padap Din is celebrated by remembering and paying respects to the dead. This Laos festival sees various food, fruits, cakes, and even cigarettes being placed at the foot of stupas containing the ashes of the dead. 

Families also prepare a special tray filled with the deceased’s favourite dishes. The tray is presented as a gift to monks to transmit the family’s merit to those who have passed away.

  Awk Phansa (Wan Ok Phansa)  

Awk Phansa celebrates the end of the 3-month Buddhist Lent, which takes place on the day of the full moon of October. Monks are permitted to leave the temple, and are often presented with gifts. A particularly beautiful aspect is Lai Hua Fai. 

On the eve of Awk Phansa, people gather at the nearest body of water to release dozens of small banana-leaf boats decorated with candles, incense and small flowers – this celebration is similar to Thailand's Loy Krathong Festival.

  Bun Nam   In riverside towns such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet, the highly competitive Bun Nam boat races takes place on the same day as Awk Phansaa. Smaller communities sometimes hold these races on National Day on 2nd December. 
  Boun That Luang  

Boun That Luang is traditionally centred at That Luang in Vientiane, though many temples across Laos also celebrate this event. Fairs, beauty contests, music and fireworks take place throughout the week of the full moon.

In Vientiane, Boun That Luang ends with a candlelight procession (wien thien) around the temple of That Luang.

  Lao National Day   Lao National Day takes place on 2nd December, and celebrates the proletariat’s victory back in 1975. The streets of cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane are decorated with national flags and banners. Vibrant processions, parades, and speeches are some of the highlights of this Laos celebration.
Public Holidays
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 6 Pathet Lao Day
Jan 20 Army Day
Feb 1 Chinese New Year
Mar 8 Chinese New Year
Mar 22 Day of the People's Party
Apr 13-15 Lao New Year (Pi Mai)
May 1 Labour Day
May 16 Birth of Buddha
Jun 1 Children's Day
Jul 13 Khao Pansa (Buddhist Fast begins)
Aug 13 13 Lao Issara (Day of the Free Laos)
Oct 5 Bouk ok Pansa (Buddhist Fast ends)
Oct 12 Day of Liberation
Dec 2 National Day
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