The Water Festival is held to celebrate New Year in some countries in East and South-East countries such as China, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Besides, we cannot ignore a country well known all over the world for this: Laos. You are wondering when and why people celebrate this occasion and what they do during this festival, which is outside from Vietnam adventure tours, aren’t you? This article is going to provide you all needed information you may want to know.
In Laos, people call it Songkran, which last 4 days (from 12th to 15th April). Songkran was originally considered as Buddhist ritual to welcome the New Year with purification, and that has not changed yet. Monks and believers attend to the temples, sprinkling Buddha statues and altars with scented water, in a symbolic gesture of washing away the bad luck from the previous year and welcoming in good fortune, health, and happiness for the New Year. That is so similar to Vietnam adventure activities in the New Year. The water was saved and sprinkled on loved ones as well, which is still done today.
The first day is the last day of the old year when houses and villages are carefully cleaned. Perfume, water, and flowers are also prepared for the Lao New Year. The second day of the festival is called the “day of no day”, as it falls in neither the old year nor the New Year. The last day of the festival marks the beginnings of the New Year.
Because of Laos’ religion: Buddhism, Lao New Year is observed with many Buddha-related traditions and celebratory activities, which are hardly seen in Vietnam adventure tours. First of all is Sand Decorations. As a way of bringing luckiness, Lao people often bring sand to temples for the monks. At the temples, the monks create mounds of sand. These mounds of sand are decorated with patterns of flowers and intricate carvings. Otherwise, they possibly go to beaches to create their own stupas.
Other activities hold on the second day is cleansing with water – the most important one during the festival. And somewhat like Vietnam adventure holidays in Tet, school-age children are supposed to clean their homes and loved ones with water. After they soak their elders with water, students go to temples to cleanse monks. The cleansing water is often perfumed with flowers or cologne. According to traditional Lao beliefs, this promotes longevity, cleans all dirt and purifies people. Then, the students have some fun by dousing their friends with water. Playful fights with water guns and balloons are also common. Along with water cleansing, homes are cleaned by families. This helps eliminate the bad fortune from the past year.
It comes to the most humanity action in this festival: release animals. Since most Lao people are Buddhists, giving freedom to animals is a common practice during Lao New Year. In addition to freeing birds and other animals from cages, monks will pray for the release of captive humans.
Like many other holidays, decorations are an important aspect of Lao New Year- Flower arrangement. To show respect for Buddha, monks in Lao temples will decorate images and statues of Buddha with flowers. These flowers are always freshly picked and washed before they are placed on a representation of Buddha. This practice shares the similarity with Vietnamese on Tet holiday, which you can experience in Vietnam adventure tours.
One more activity which draws much attention from a gorgeous woman is pageants. This contest consists of seven female contestants who compete for the title of Miss Pii Mai Lao. Other areas of Laos also host beauty pageants during Lao New Year.
And, an inevitable thing in almost every festival for tourists loving it just like Vietnam outdoor activities: dancing and music. In small towns and villages, communities gather to sing traditional songs. These songs are often accompanied by instrumental music and circle dances.
The unique thing here: food. In contrast to most holidays in East and Southeast Asia which are not oriented around food, Lao people enjoy traditional meals on the final day of the festival, which is often compared to Vietnam outdoor specialty for those once visited: Chung cake. One of the most popular dishes consists of sticky rice with padauk. Padaek is a fermented fish sauce that is commonly eaten by Lao families. This dish is usually served with roasted mushrooms. Fish stews are also popular in Laos during New Year celebrations. However, it is said that not everyone can eat and enjoy those kinds of food at the first time.
Lastly, you also need to know about ritual greetings here to avoid an awkward situation. One of the most commonly heard greetings during Lao New Year is sok di pai mai (means Happy New Year in English).
Lao New Year festival like that of many countries is a vibrant holiday that allows the people of Laos to practice traditions and enjoy some time off from work with friends and family members. If you have a chance, except for the choice of Vietnam adventure tours, just visit Laos once at least on this occasion and you will experience these hilarious things at your first hand.