When golden shower flower (Cassia fistula) bloom around the country, it is time for Laotians to prepare for Lao New Year the largest festival in the year.
Let’s lay your camera in wardrobe and passionately immerse in joyous and bustle festival of the close neighboring country.
What does the Water Festival mean?
Water festival is one of the traditional cultural festivals of Southeast Asian countries. It is called Bunpimay by Laotian, Songkran by the Thai, Chol Chnam Thmey bu the Cambodian and Thingyan by the Burmese.
The festival is considered to bring freshness, prosperity for all things, purify the lives of people. In these days, people are splashing together to wish for good luck, pray for good weatherand a prosperous happ new year. Festivals, Bun for short, means doing good and being blessed.
Timing of the Water Festival
Bunpimay usually takes place for three days: 13rd, 14th and 15th of April annually according to Buddhist calendar.
Customs of the festival
On the first day - also the last day of the old year, people clean everywhere inside and outside the house, prepare scented water and flowers. In the afternoon, villagers gather in a pagoda for worshiping, praying, listening to the monks, wishing for health and happiness for the whole year. Then, they pick up astatue to a separated area in three days and it opensfor everyone to go bathing the Buddha. The scent water after watering the statue will be bring back home to rub on people’s body to pray for good luck.
The second day is not counted because it is the transition between the old and the new year.
The third day is also the last day with many jubilant activitieseverywhere. Before splashing, people talk to each other good wishes. To pay homage, young people splash into older people to pray for long life and prosperity. Friends splasheach other. They do not just splash on people but also on house, worship, animals and production tools. Lao people believe that water will wash away bad things, sickness and bring good new year wishes to live long and healthy. Who get wet a lot will get more happiness.
Pople also makes sand towers, decorated with flags, flowers, cloth belt and throw scented water. In these days, people set free some animals such as turtles, fishes, crabs, birds ... to get blessed.
On these days, who visits home will get a red or green tie around wrist, symbolizing happiness and health. During the three-day festival, the one who gets many ties is considered a lucky person throughout the year.
People use golden shower flower (Cassia fistula , yellow scorpion) to tie on cars and hangon their house to pray for good luck, plait the Champa flower in clusters or pin on the hair to pray for good blessing in the year.
Water Festival is held across the country, but the most fun is in Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. In Luang Prabang, where there are many temples and be a popular tourist area, the foreign guests can enjoy a clear festive atmosphere with lots of exciting games.
Suggestions to Attend to Water Festival
In Luang Prabang, there are lots ofguest houses, hotelsfrom VND 300,000 ($15) up. At the time of the festival, you should book in advance to make sure there is available room. This is a city with a long history of Laos with a lot of attractions like the sacred temples, ancient streets, Pak Ou caves, Phou Si mountains and the night market - where the traditional items or popular silver products from Laos are sold.
During these days, people like to eat Laap Laos with hot sticky rice. There's also a lot of delicacies you should try, for example dried buffalo meat, grilled chicken, grilled fish ...
If visiting aos in the new year, you should be prepared to receive the blessing by water. Lao people are very friendly; they do not do any harm to you. If you're driving or walking on the street, they will just throw water on you. Do not be angry, they do so only to wish you good health throughout life and also for themselves.