Laos celebrates end of Buddhist Lent in traditional style

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - People nationwide on Sunday joyfully celebrated the end of Buddhist Lent (Boun Ork Phansa) by attending tak baat (almsgiving) ceremonies at temples followed by keenly-watched boat races.

The festival occurs three months after the start of Lent in July, when the accompanying festival is known as Boun Khao Phansa.

Boat races took place in Vientiane and some of the provinces yesterday or on the weekend, when crowds turned out to watch races in categories that included traditional and modified boats.

As part of the boat theme, temples set up model boats on which people placed lighted candles after taking part in candlelit processions around the main temple building.  

Lighting home-made “boats” (heua fai) made of banana leaves and decorated with flowers, incense sticks and candles is one of the most popular parts of the festival.

As they carefully set the little baskets afloat on the river, people believe that their bad luck will float away along with the bobbing craft and that good luck, good health, happiness and success will come their way in the future.

As from today, monks can travel and visit other temples now that Lent has ended. During the Lenten period, monks and novices must remain in their designated temple and immerse themselves in the routines and principles of Buddhism over the three months.

Following the excitement of Boun Ork Phansa, everyone’s attention will turn to the That Luang festival next month. This event honours the nation’s most revered symbol, when the grand stupa takes centre stage in the third week of November.   

This year is especially important because it is Visit Laos-China Year and Laos hopes to have an upswing in the number of visitors. Boun Ork Phansa, the boat races and the That Luang festival are among the events that are sure to fascinate foreign visitors and teach them about Laos’ cultural traditions.

Officials expect that more than 4.5 million visitors will come to Laos during Visit Laos-China Year 2019.

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