EVENTS & FESTIVALS IN SALAVANH
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 Salavanh 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.
The Baci Ceremony
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.
Boun Lapeup Ceremony
This traditional ceremony for deceased ethnic Katang (Toumlan District) and Ngae (Lao Ngarm District) is organized by the family at a time considered appropriate and economically feasible. During this ritual, villagers play drums and dance around ceremonial structures before sacrificing buffaloes to guide their forefathers’ spirits in joining the spirit protecting their house.
Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year)
Celebrated over three days in mid-April, and with plenty of festive water splashing, Salavanh’s Lao New Year has its own distinct flair. Some families hold baci ceremonies and construct large arches from rice plants to show respect to the earth, sky, and land spirits, who they believe assist in bringing a good rice harvest during the coming year. They also politely splash fragrant water on others to wash away bad fortune. Salavanh District and the Tad Lo area hold the largest celebrations, with thousands of people from southern Laos and even Thailand coming to make merit. Locals build and decorate small structures, and the faithful pour water on Buddha images at nine temples, which they believe will bring them good luck.
Boun Ok Phansa (End of Buddhist Lent)
Generally taking place in October, this two-day festival celebrates the end of the three-month Buddhist lent. Locals make merit in the morning by gathering at temples and giving alms to the monks in return for blessings. The people later play music and perform traditional dances like “Lamvong Salavanh”, and in the evening they gather at temples and follow monks in a three-lap parade with candles around the temples. At the parade’s conclusion, groups place lay huapi (longboats made with bamboo and banana trees) decorated with flowers, colored candles, cakes and other foods in the rivers, while individuals set much smaller but similar kathong afloat to wish for a brighter future and cast off bad luck.
Boun Suang Heua (Boat Racing Festival)
Usually coinciding Boun Ok Phansaa during October’s full moon, several Salavanh Districts hold their annual longboat competitions among villages at different times. However, most take place on the Xe Don River to make merit to the waterway that supports many locals’ lives. Salavanh District holds its event over five days in early September, and villages from throughout the province come to compete, with only the winners advancing to the next day. Vapy District’s races come several weeks later, and Khongxedon District’s competition follows shortly after.