Pi Mai Lao
Lao New Year is celebrated across the country each April, and is a riotous mix of tradition, pageantry and water splashing.
Pi Mai Lao, otherwise known as Songkran, is the traditional Lao New Year period. Stretching over a few days (13-15 April) the Pi Mai Lao celebrations go on across the country.
Officially the last day of the year, 13th April is traditionally a day of renewal - which in Buddhist culture is symbolised by water. Buddha images are washed, temples are repainted and homes cleaned from top to bottom. In the afternoon, young people pour water on the hands of their elders and ask for their blessing in the year ahead. Much like a New Year toast in western cultures, this is sometimes followed by a short speech from parents or grandparents. During the speech, elders give their blessing to their family, as well as highlighting important family events such as births, deaths or marriages.
The blessing of relatives, friends and even strangers with water continues throughout the festival. Traditionally, you wish someone 'Happy New Year' ('Sok Dii Pimai') before pouring water over their head, symbolising the washing away of sins committed in the past year. These days, water is also shot through water guns or thrown from buckets and pans, creating an enormous water fight that it is impossible to avoid. As this falls at the hottest time of the year, a drenching is often a welcome relief - but this is certainly a festival to avoid if you're not a fan of getting wet!
For visitors, most of the highlights of Pi Mai Lao take place on the second day of festivities (14th April), known as 'the day of no day'; a day of transition that is neither part of the old nor the new year. This is a day of colourful processions, beauty contests, music and dance in addition to the obligatory soakings.
When to go:
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Pi Mai Lao
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