7. Boat Racing Festival
Boat racing is a local festival that takes place every year all around the country during September and October. Most Lao traditional boat racing festivals take place before the end of Buddhist lent. Dates vary from year to year, but most festivals are held on weekends.
Traditionally, after the rice planting season, villages on the river banks prepare themselves for the upcoming boat racing festival in and around their communities. Teams of rowers are usually sponsored either by big name companies, such as Beer Lao, and telecom companies or by organizations in Vientiane.
On the race day, every household in the host village prepares special food and drinks. One typical food in this day is noodle which is called Khao Poon in Lao. As guests arrive at their house they are served some noodles and something to drink. This tradition has been carries on for generations and it’s also practiced in BounPavet or Boun Bang Fai.
Besides food and drinks, the host village also needs to build temporary shelters for he invited guests and the rowing crews, to stay the night during days of this festival. These shelters are as simple as bamboo huts or tents. Each family in the village contributes basic stuff like mattresses, pillows and blankets.
Usually, during these days, the town comes alive with noise and festivity as the teams make their way to the river either by truck or walking, banging drums and singing. The streets to and along the Mekong river bank are very crowed as thousands of spectators cram along to cheer their teams.
8. Awk Phansa Festival
After the monks have endured the 3 months retreat in their own monastery, they are then allowed to travel again. The last day of the Rains retreat is called “Awk Phansa” which means “leaving the Rains retreat”.
This day marks the end of the Buddhist lent and falls on the full moon day of the eleventh lunar month (October).
On the first day at dawn, many people go to the temples around the country to give donations and offerings. In the evening, candlelight processions are held around the temples and it is the celebrations of laiheuafai or Loika Thong, when everyone sends small lighted “boats” made of banana stems or banana leaves decorated with candles and flowers down the river.
Laotians do this activity to show their respect to the Buddha and gratitude the mother of river for providing water for our lives. Whereas others send the lighted boats down the river to ask for blessing and to float bad luck of the past year away enabling the good luck to flow in. Most towns with a river bank nearby will engage in this lovely ceremony. For villagers from town far from the river, they also prepare model boats decorated with flowers and candlelight. They often take the candlelight in front of their house and do their little prayer wishing for good luck. These colorful rituals have been carried on by Lao people for thousands of years.
(to be continued)
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