Lao New Year is celebrated across the country each April, and is a riotous mix of tradition, pageantry and water splashing.
Songkran, also known as Pi Mai Lao, is the traditional Lao New Year period. Spread over a couple of days from 14th to 16th April each year, Pi Mai Lao celebrations take place across the whole country.
Preparations for the festival begin on 14th April, officially the last day of the year. In Buddhist culture, renewal is symbolised by water, so on the 14th houses are scrubbed, Buddha images are washed and temples are cleaned and repainted. Fresh flowers are placed in homes too. Then the water is used to cleanse people too - the young pour water over the hands of monks and elders to ask for their blessing in the year ahead.
The 15th is the "day of no day" - neither of the old year or the new year. In Luang Prabang, one of Laos' most important Buddha statues is carried through the streets from the former Royal Palace to Vat Mai temple followed by hundreds of monks. When the Buddha reached the temple, people pour water over it and then collect the now sacred water as a blessing for friends and family.
But the blessing don't stop there, as water is thrown over friends and strangers alike of any age to wash their sins away. Wishing somebody "Happy New Year"? Throw a bucket of water over their head as well! Water pistols are popular these days and you can expect Luang Prabang to feel like one big, happy water fight. Expect to get soaking wet!
When to go: In 2019 and 2020, the Laos New Year celebrations take place from 14th to 16th April.
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