Major Festivals and Public Holidays in Laos

Laos Monuments to Visit in Public Holidays

Many festivals and holidays are celebrated in Laos each year. As Theravada Buddhism is the main religion in Laos, most of the holidays and festivals are connected to Buddhism.

Laos festivals are the perfect opportunity to experience the culture and learn about the many religious traditions.

How Many Holidays Are There in Laos Each Year?

There are 11 public holidays in Laos, distributed throughout the year.

Below is a list of the most important festivals celebrated in Laos.

Festivals in Laos from January to March

The 2 major festivals celebrated during the first 3 months of the year are Boun Khoun Khao and Laos Elephant Festival.

Boun Khoun Khao: giving thanks for the harvest</h3>

One of the most important festivals of the year, Boun Khoun Khao, or the rice festival, gives thanks to the spirit of the land for the new harvest.

When does Boun Khoun Khao take place?

Laos rice festival is celebrated from the end of January till early February, depending on the Buddhist lunar calendar.

Where is Boun Khoun Khao celebrated?

This festival is celebrated in rural parts of Laos, in particular along the banks of the river Mekong in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

How is Boun Khoun Khao celebrated?

Rice farmers store rice inside temples and people gather around a Pha Khuan, a large pyramid of flowers. In a ceremony conducted by the oldest members of the community, prayers are said asking for health and happiness.

Tourists taking part in the Boun Khoun Khao festival can sample traditional dishes such as Mekong fish, salads and rice wine, all prepared in celebration of the abundant harvest.

Foreign visitors are welcomed to join in the singing and dancing which takes place once the rituals and ceremonies come to an end.

Laos Elephant Festival: a celebration of Laos’ most important animal.

The elephant is considered to be an earthly representation of the Buddha, displaying the qualities for which he is held in high esteem: wisdom, strength, patience and loyalty. Given these links to Buddhism, Laos adopted the elephant as a symbol of the nation’s strength and prosperity.

As well as celebrating the importance of the elephant in Laotian society, the festival aims to highlight the threat of extinction that elephants face.

When does Laos Elephant Festival take place?

Laos Elephant Festival is celebrated across 3 days in mid to late-February. In 2019, Laos Elephant Festival began on 24th February.

Where is Laos Elephant Festival celebrated?

The Elephant Festival is officially celebrated in the Xayaboury Province of Laos.

How is Laos Elephant Festival celebrated?

During the 3 days of the festival, elephants roam around the town freely. The elephants are blessed by monks and activities include an elephant procession, fruit and flower shows and fireworks displays.

Festivals in Laos from April to June

The major Laos festivals celebrated from April to June are Pii Mai and Boun Bang Fai.

Pii Mai: celebrate New Year in Laos

The celebration of New Year, Pii Mai is the most important festival of the year in Laos.

When does Pii Mai take place?

Pii Mai takes place across 3 days starting on 14th April. The first day of the festival is the last day of the old year, the second day is known as the ‘no day’ and the final day is the start of the new year.

Where is Pii Mai celebrated?

Pii Mai is a festival celebrated throughout Laos. Tourists in any part of Laos on these dates can take part in the annual celebrations.

How is Pii Mai celebrated?

Water perfumed with flowers is at the heart of Pii Mai. Houses and statues are washed and people throw water at each other which both cleanses and cools given that April is the hottest month of the year in Laos. Other key elements include sand brought to temple grounds and flowers used to adorn Buddha statues.

Visitors can enjoy traditional music and dances including the molam and lamvông.

Boun Bang Fai: the Rocket Festival

Boun Bang Fai, also known as the Rocket Festival, is an opportunity to wish for rain and celebrate fertility.

When does Boun Bang Fai take place?

Boun Bang Fai is held in Mid-May, at the beginning of the wet season.

Where is Boun Bang Fai celebrated?

Boun Bang Fai celebrations take place in provinces throughout the country, with one of the most important celebrations being held in Suwannaphum.

How is Boun Bang Fai celebrated?

This festival involves a number of fun activities including traditional dances and men dressing in women’s clothes.

Later in the day, villagers launch a homemade firework rocket in appreciation of Payathaen, the God of the Sky, the provider of the rain which waters the crops.

Festivals in Laos from July to September

The most important festival in Laos from July to September is Boun Khao Phansa.

Boun Khao Phansa: marking the beginning of Buddhist Lent

Boun Khao Phansa is the festival which marks the beginning of the 3-month Buddhist Lent.

When does Boun Khao Pansa take place?

Boun Khao Pansa takes place in July, at the beginning of the Buddhist Lent period which extends from July to October.

During Lent, monks stay in the same temple to study and meditate whilst Laos people abstain from alcohol and follow the Buddha’s teaching closely.

Where is Boun Khao Phansa celebrated?

The ritual and celebrations take place at temples across Laos.

How is Boun Khao Pansa celebrated?

Food, in particular, Khao Tom (a sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves) is taken to the temples on Boun Khao Phansa, along with other useful items for the monks like soap and toothpaste.

After the donations are made, the monks chant and recite the teachings of Buddha. Incense sticks are used to perfume the air whilst candles remove darkness and ignorance.

Festivals in Laos from October to December

The most noteworthy festival to take place in the last 3 months of the year is Boun That Luang.

Boun That Luang: paying tribute to the most important temple in Laos

This festival is held in appreciation of That Luang, a gold-covered Buddhist Stupa, the most important religious monument in Laos.

When does Boun That Luanga take place?

This festival in Laos takes place during the 3 days of the full moon in November.

Where is Boun That Luang celebrated?

That Luang is located in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The procession begins at another temple, Wat Si Muang, about 2.5 miles (4 km) away.

How is Boun That Luang celebrated?

Following the procession from That Luang to Wat Si Muang, candles are lit inside the temple accompanied by prayers for good luck.

Do they Celebrate Christmas in Laos?

With a Christian population of around 1.5%, Christmas is not a significant holiday in Laos.

For Christians in Laos, Christmas celebrations are fairly simple, centered on Jesus and involving singing, dancing and the sharing of food.

Travelers who wish to experience Laos’ festivals should check whether a visa is required to enter the country.

Citizens of 150 countries can apply online for the Laos visa. Taking just a few minutes to complete, this is the quickest and easiest way to obtain the permit.

By applying for the Laos evisa, travelers can enjoy a single-entry stay of up to 30 days. Applicants should check the Laos visa requirements before applying.