Festivals in Laos are mostly linked to agricultural seasons or Buddhist holidays. The word of festival in Lao is Bun (or Boun). Most festival dates change according to the lunar calendar, though even these are not set in stone and some festivals are not celebrated at different times depending on where you are. All of this makes advance planning difficult.
- International New Year (1-3 January)
- Bun Khun Khao (Mid January): The annual harvest festival sees villagers perform ceremonies offering thanks to the land spirits for allowing their crops to flourish.
- Makha Busa (Magha Puja or Bun Khao Chi, Full Moon): This commemorates a speech given by the Buddha to 1250 enlightened monks who came to hear him without prior summons. Chanting and offerings mark the festival, culminating in candlelit circumambulation of Wats throughout the country.
- January 1st: International New Year’s Day: Celebrated in Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet with parties, fireworks and visits to Vietnamese and Chinese temple.
- Bun Pha Wet: This is a temple-centred festival in which the Jataka (birth tal) of Prince Vessantara, the Buddh’s penultimate life, is recited.
- Bun Pi Mai (Lao New Year, 14-16 April): Lao New Year is the most important holidays of the years. Houses are cleaned, people put on new clothes and Buddha images are washed with lustral water.
- Visakha Busa (Visakha Puja, Full moon): This falls on the 15th day of the sixth lunar month, which is considered the day of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana (passing away).
- Bun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival): This is pre-Buddhist rain ceremony now celebrated alongside Sisakha Busa in Laos and north-eastern Thailand.
- Bun Khao Phansa (Khao Wats, Full Moon): This is the beginning of the traditional three-month “ rains retreat ” during which Buddhist monks are expected to station themselves in a single monastery.
- Haw Khao Padam Din (Full moon): This sombre festival sees the living pay respect to the dead.
- Bun Awk Phansa (Ok Watsa, Full Moon): At the end of the three-month rains retreat, monks can leave the monasteries to travel and are presented with robes, alms bowls and other requisites of the renunciate life.
- Bun Nam (Bun Suang Heua, Boat Racing Festival, Full moon): In many river towns, including Vientiane and Luang Prabang, boat races are held the day after Awk Phansa.
- Bun Pha That Luang (That Luang festival, Full moon): Centred around Pha That Luang in Vientiane, this increasingly commercial celebration lasts a week and includes fireworks, music and drinking across the capital.
- Lao National Day (2 December): This public holiday celebrates the 1975 victory over the monarchy with parades, speeches etc.
- January 1st: International New Year ’s Day
- March 8th – 9th: International Women’s Day
- April 13th- 15th: Laotian New Year’s Day
- May 1st: International Labour Day
- June 1st: Children’s Day
- December 2nd: National Day