The New Year in Laos

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Laos is a country in Southeast Asia with a particular geographical location. It’s landlocked and it  borders China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. Its people is still very poor but that in recent times is having a strong economic growth, especially thanks to the tourism.

Luang Prabang, for example, attracts tourists from around the world for the spiritual atmosphere  but also thanks to archaeological finds which testify the presence of human beings in that area 40000 years ago, in prehistoric times. In the Mekong’s Valley there are some remains of agricultural settlements dating back to 4.000 b.C.

During the hot month of April, more precisely between the 13th and 16th of this month, Laos celebrates the Pi Mai Lao, the Laotian New Year. The population, according to tradition, celebrates it for 3 full days.

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There are some similarities between Pi Mai Lao and Songkran, the Thai New Year, because these countries of Southeast Asia are Buddhists and so they celebrate the arrival of the new year with religious rites.

The most “showy” of these similarities is a collective entertainment originating from an act of purification: a lot of rivers of water involving the entire nation… everyone and everything.

On the first day, which is the last of the old year, people prepares the Buddha statues that are removed from their usual location and placed in a position that allows the people to sprinkle them with scented water from the flowers. This water dripping from statues is then used to bless each home and family.

The second day is also called “day without day” because it does not belong neither to old year neither to new year. This day is dedicated to clean the houses, usually by old people who invites young people not to lounge around; a popular belief says: those who sleep on this day get sick the rest of the year.

The third and final day is the first of the New Year and it’s celebrated together the families, with the older people. At night the temples remit their Buddha in the usual positions. Faithfuls take part in the suggestive processions concluding the festivities with the “ritual” of the animals liberation…all species, from birds to fish, because the Laotians believe that each animal has to be free …

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(All the photos are taken from Google.com, and all belong to their original owners)