EVENTS & FESTIVALS IN SAYABOULY
Almost every month of the year there is either a local festival or celebration in Laos. The word for festival in Lao is boun, which also means doing good things in order to gain merit for subsequent lives. If you are in Sayabouly while any of the festivals are taking place you will surely be welcomed and asked to join the fun. Please feel free to participate, however remember that most of the festivals are based on religious beliefs, so your hosts will appreciate it if you respect local codes of behavior.
Currently rotated among Sayabouly’s districts, this annual mid-February festival commemorates the nation’s living icon. The two-day celebration, filled with elephant-related activities and performances, kicks off with an elephant procession and monks’ blessings, followed by the election of the Elephant of the Year, which leads the second day’s parade.....
Phavet Festival (Spiritual Ghost Festival)
Prevalent throughout Sayabouly, this three-day ritual centers on a lengthy procession, in which men wearing massive paperboard masks and drummers lead four spirits throughout the area. Generally held in mid-March depending on the lunar calendar, the three-day Phavet Festivals gives locals the opportunity to pay honor to the spirits that protect them. Sayabouly Province celebrates Boun Phavet in mid-March, to pay tribute to Phavet’s spirit and celebrate his return. The three-day festival begins with a parade at the cemetery of Wat Sibounheuang led by two spirit ghosts, who protected Phavet on it's way back home and two medicine men, offering herbal medicines to the villagers.
Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year)
Celebrated over three days in mid-April, and with plenty of festive water splashing, Sayabouly’s district centers present New Year’s celebrations that include beauty contests to select Miss New Year, cultural performances, food stalls, and clothing and handicraft fairs. Village temples hold more modest function, as they mainly focus on religious rituals.
Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)
Boun Ok Phansa (End of Buddhist Lent)
This late-May/early June festival linked to fertility and bringing rain kicks off with a parade of homemade rockets from competing villages. The crowd thickens as the large bamboo rockets reach the field from which they are launched skyward.
Generally taking place in early October, this two-day festival celebrates the end of the three-month Buddhist Lent during which monks and novices study and meditate. Locals make merit in the morning at their temples before gathering at rivers in the evening and launching heau fai (small, banana-leaf floats with flowers and lit candles) on waterways to wish for a brighter future and cast off bad luck.
Boat Racing Festival
The Baci Ceremony
Coinciding with Boun Ok Phansa in early October and held throughout Laos, the long-boat competitions pit village against village with both men’s and women’s races. In Sayabouly District, some contest the two-day paddle battle along the Nam Heung, Mekong and other rivers in a carnival-like atmosphere.
Lao Villagers perform this ritual to welcome visitors or send them off, and during weddings. This sacred ceremony, in which blessings are symbolically tied to one’s wrist with strings, is also a reconciliation gesture, and the faithful believe it can help cure many illnesses.