Pii Mai is the celebration of Lao New Year and is officially celebrated for three days between April 14th to April 16th, although in places, such as Luang Prabang, it consists of a week long celebration. It begins with the last day of the year (14th April), where houses, temples and villages are properly cleaned for the new year, followed by the no day (15th April) and then the start of the new year (16th April). This year, volunteers had the opportunity to participate in a plethora of festivities and engage in the citywide water fight! In this years case, a picture is worth a thousand words; take a look at the series of pictures below that reflect the various traditional and contemporary festivities that took place in Luang Prabang!
Volunteers participating in a religious Baci ceremony, whereby Novices and Monks bless the building to rid it of bad spirits for the new year.
With the house blessing concluded, it was the volunteers and community members turn to bless each other, by tying white string around each others wrists and wishing each other good luck and fortune in the new year. (Photo Credit Intern George Williamson)
The following day volunteers were invited to participate in the customary tradition of the Watering of the Buddha at nearby temple Wat Meunna.
With the help of the male volunteers, each statue was carefully taken from inside the temple and placed outside before scented water was splashed on each one.
We then made our way to the Nam Khan river bank and participated in the traditional sand Stupa construction, where it is believed that when the river rises and washes the grains of sand away anything bad leftover from the previous year is also washed away. (Photo and description credit scholar Cathy Cowan)
Volunteers then attended the ceremonial parade along the main street, whereby thousands participate in the transportation of the golden Buddha statue from Wat Mai to Wat Xieng Thong.
Included in the procession were hundreds of Novices and Monks.
Some volunteers were also lucky enough to run into some of their students who were taking part in the parade.
Traditionally, water was sprinkled to bless elders, Novices and Monks. Today, this tradition has evolved in to a country wide, fun-packed festival of water throwing. For several days the streets are lined with people throwing water, coloured dye and flour accompanied by shouts of ‘Sok Dii Pii Mai- Happy New Year!’.
Written by Field Staff Member Luke Tavener
Photos by Field Staff Member Luke Tavener (unless stated elsewhere)