Knowing about public holidays in Laos not only help you process your Lao visa faster but also plan your itinerary well so that you can explore the Lao culture via the holidays.
1. New Year’s Day (January 1st)
Laos has three different New Year celebrations. Just like many other countries, Laos put International New Year’s Day (January 1st) in the list of national holidays allowing all workers to have days off and offices to be shut down. Fireworks are played on the night of New Year’s Eve, but they start their party on the 1st date of the year. Lao people often invite their friends and relatives to come home to eat and drink while Western people may spend that date to sleep since they have spent the whole night before for feast.
2. International Women’s Day (March 8th)
As a common situation in many Southeast Asian nations, Lao women are still underestimated in certain works. However, in recent years, changes are rapidly forthcoming with lots of Lao women equipping themselves to be employed and earn their living.
Therefore, on this holiday, many ceremonies and celebrations are held to honor the dedication of Lao women in their community and workplace as a wakeup call of recognition towards Lao women. Nowadays, as a custom, many Lao women start drinking beer on their day when sometimes men do household chores and take care of their children.
3. Lao New Year’s Day (April 14th, 15th, 16th)
The holiday is known in the native language as “Bun Pi Mai”, the most important holiday of Laos lasting for three official days, 14th, 15th, and 16th in April. The date of Bun Pi Mai is chosen base on the belief of Buddhism.
On the first day of Lao New Year, Lao people always clean their house, temples and prepare water, flowers and decorate things for the days ahead. On the evening, they gather in pagodas to worship, pray for a good coming year. The second day is “a day of no day” since it is neither a part of the old or new year. Laotians spend that day for relaxation. Then on the third day (main day), the holiday officially starts with colorful parades and traditional activities. During this time, young people pour water on the hands of the elders and ask for a blessing. Laotians believe that water will clean away evil, diseases and wish the New Year a long, clean and healthy life. Those who get wet more will be happier. So, do not worry when you’re poured when visiting the country during the festive time, the local people just want to warmly wish you happiness and health.
The water festival takes place all over the country, but the happiest and largest one held in Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, which includes a procession, a fair, a sand-castle competition on the Mekong, a Miss New Year pageant, folk performances, and cultural shows.
4. International Worker’s Day (May 1st)
It is also known as Labor Day, an occasion to honor the achievement of the worker movement. Therefore, all public schools, business, and the government are legally shut down for a day off. In this day off, people often spend time with their family, go picnic or just stay at their home for relaxation.
5. Lao Women’s Union Day (July 20th)
The purpose of this holiday is to remember the establishment of the Lao PDR Women’s Union on 20th July 1955. This union is linked with the government and greatly influence public policies in Laos. It has over a half a million members today. It is responsible for protecting women who may be abused or discriminated against and in promoting gender equality, the role of women and unity nationwide.
The union runs a shelter for Lao women in Vientiane, where up to 50 women and girls can be sheltered at a time if they need assistance.
6. Boat Racing Festival Day
If you are a fan of exciting sports festival, visiting Laos in the time of Boat Racing is the best idea. The exact date of the festival exacts each year, but most races are held on the weekend, start around noon, and end by sunset. This year, the festival will be held on 14th October and will fall on 3rd October 2020.
7. Lao National Day (December 2nd)
The Nation Day is held to commemorate the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1975, which marks the milestones of Lao’s independence. Therefore, there will be numerous parades, fairs, and formal speeches in major cities and towns on that day every year. All street corners are filled with national flags, showing the pride of Laotians.
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