Wan Awk Phansa Festival – An Essentially Spiritual Experience in Laos

Wan Awk Phansa Festival, which is sometimes called the Festival of Candle Lights, is a fantastic occasion in Laos tours. It will tell you numerous things about the people in this lovely country.  

1.    What is the festival about?

The Wan Awk Phansa Festival means the Buddhist Lent Festival in English. It is the most significant celebration in a year. So if you can join in it when doing Laos tours, it will be a great chance to discover the exclusive Buddhism in this country.

As you can see from the name of the festival, Wan Awk Phansa is celebrated to mark the end of the three-month period of fasting. The first day of this is also performed and called the Khao Phansa Festival. During this interval, monks stay in their temples to concentrate on meditation, chanting, and the study of Buddhism.


A ritual-in the festival (Source: Google)

The citizens temporarily avoid getting married, building houses, and especially drinking as well as smoking. The Wan Awk Phansa Festival has a considerable meaning to Lao people. It encourages people to do the right thing and become better.

After the celebration, the monks can move to another temple to teach what they have learned. Or they can simply go making offerings anywhere that they want.

Also, the citizens have to follow the lessons that the monks teach them, including trying not to do evil and do as many good things as possible. Because human life is short and no one knows when it will end, individuals have to do kind things for their country, society, and other people. In that way, they will have a happy and complete life.

2.    When is it organized?

According to the tradition in Laos, Wan Awk Phansa Festival is organized on the fifteenth day of the eleventh month in the Lunar Calendar. It will be celebrated within only 2 days. Nevertheless, you can sense the spirit of the festival from months before the official date.

a fire boat

A fire boat (Source: Google)

To take part in the celebration, you can book Laos tours that are set up sometime between late October and early November. Coincidentally, the ending of the three-month-period of fasting is at the same time with the cessation of the wet season. Hence, the weather will be beautiful for your trip.

3.    What activities will be held on this occasion?

Several days before the special day, local people from all over the country will prepare offerings. They are usually incense, flowers, candles, cakes, candies, fruits, and rice. These things will be proffered to the Buddha through official rituals taking place in temples.

Early in the morning of the first day of the festival, Buddhists of all ages will put on their most gorgeous traditional costumes, carrying the offerings on their hands and walking to a temple. It will be the place where they propose their gifts to the Buddha and their ancestors. Then, they will sit down to listen to lessons from the monks.

The afternoon is the time for the Awk Phansa Ritual. The Buddhists will gather round together with the monks again in order to perform it and summarize everything that they have fulfilled within the three-month period.

After two ceremonial practices, the final activity is in the evening. It is the Candle Parade, in which the citizens will hold their candles on their hand and go three rounds around the temple. Flickering candles will be arranged around it and the balcony of the participants’ houses as well.


The boat race (Source: Google)

Another place where thousands of candles will appear is the fire boats. They are made from the trunk of a banana tree or a Styrofoam box. These boats carry all of the offerings and are floated down the Mekong River, creating an entire sacred area.

The citizens believe that giving their offerings to the river is a way to prove their respect towards the Buddha. Moreover, it is a good method for them to express their gratitude to the river, which has provided them with water.

This is also an opportunity for the citizens to pray for a triumphant and comfortable life for their family as well as relatives. They send their wishes to the Buddha and the Gods of the River. If you can take Laos tours during the time of this festival, it is recommended to make some wishes.

The second day of the festival is for shopping and leisure activities. Particularly, the dragon boat race on the Mekong River will be organized. Various teams will participate in this and you can spend quite a lot of time having fun.

Khanh Huyen




Post Author: Ms Thuong

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