Boun Pi Mai Festival – Get Wet, Get Blessed

Towards Laotians, Boun Pi Mai Festival or Songkran is considered the most significant and the liveliest festival annually in Laos. It is the time that every citizen in Laos country look forward to come back home and gather with their families.

Celebration

Boun Pi Mai festival is held annually on 13th to 15th of April when the weather reaches its peak heat during the dry season in Lao. The festival normally lasts for three days but the party and endless fun often last for at least a week. Boun Pi Mai Festival has become the symbol of Lao holiday, the image of Lao identity, the reinforcement of family bonds and the opportunity to have a reflection of the previous year.

The three-day tradition

The first day of the celebration is called “the old day” – it is often considered the last day of the old year. On this day, everyone will prepare perfumed water to splash and flowers for offerings. Monks from the temples all around the country will take down Buddha images, move them to the open ground of the temple so everyone else can join in the celebration of pouring water on the Buddha images. Water that is poured on the Buddha images is kept and then brought home to pour on family members, relatives and friends. The act is believed to be the way of giving bless as well as purifying the receivers before taking a new page of life.

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Pouring perfumed water on Buddha images.

The “day of no day” is the second day of the festival which does not belong to neither the old year nor the new year. It is the day that the elders encourage the younger generations to clean the house or go outside and take part in the party of the festival. If they tend to stay still during this day, there is a great possibility of getting sick the following year. Through the act of pouring water on the elders, they can express their thankfulness and give their blessings to the seniors. Hence, bad things are chased away and blissfulness is given away.

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“The day of no day”, children are encouraged to go outside and splash water on everyone else.

The last day of the festival that marks the beginning of the year is the day to hold traditional ritual – Baci. Children together with their parents tie the white strings, confess their unintentionally offensive things that they did to each other to create a stronger bond between members of a family. In the evening, the Buddha images are moved back to their original places then everyone will gather at the temples to hear the chant of the monks which represents their pray for forgiveness.

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On the New Year’s Eve, families gather to ask for blessing by holding Baci ritual.

Boun Pi Mai Tradition

Water used in Boun Pi Mai Festival is added natural perfumes like flowers to create a pleasant smell. Water represents the blessing to clean and purify bad luck to the one who has been poured on. Water is also used for washing homes, Buddha images, soaking monks, friends, family and anyone who passes by.

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Natural perfumes like flowers to create a pleasant smell for the water on Boun Pi Mai Festival.

Sand is also brought to the temples’ ground to make into stupas then added decorations like flower strings and splashed with perfumed water to give to monks as a way of making merit. The sand stupas are the symbols of mount Phoukhao Khailat, where keeping the King Kabinlaphom’s head by his seven daughters.

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The sand stupas are the symbols of mount Phoukhao Khailat, where keeping the King Kabinlaphom’s head by his seven daughters.

Animals also are a part of the festival tradition. Laos people believe that animals need to be set free, thus, the most common animals are tortoises, fish, crabs, birds and other small creatures.

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Bird cages are prepared to set free the birds.

Flowers play a role of decoration as well as offerings to Buddha. Monks and civilians together pick and wash the flowers then put them around the temples and Buddha statues so everything can shine together.

Particularly in Luang Prabang – the former capital city of Laos – the locals hold a parade in which Buddha statue is carried through the streets in a golden house. Distinctive figures to recognize the parade are two red-faced mythical characters called Pou Gneu and Gna Gneu. In the evening, a beauty pageant is held to crown Miss Pimai Lao. There will be 7 contestants who portray seven daughters of the King Kabinlaphom.

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Two red-faced mythical characters Pou Gneu and Gna Gneu in Boun Pi Mai Festival in Luang Prabang.

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Beauty pageant’s contestants represent the King Kabinlaphom’s daughters.

As you can see, when visiting Laos during the mid-April. If you’re lucky enough, you can receive a bucket of water pouring on you. Don’t be offended by getting wet, be proud and happy because you have been blessed by the friendly locals.

» Eager to join in the excitement of Lao New Year? Take a trip on Luang Prabang Tours with us now.

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