Lao people nationwide are excitedly looking forward to a long holiday during their upcoming New Year festival (called Pi Mai), a time for family reunions, gatherings of friends, and big feasts.

This year’s New Year holiday will extend from April 14 to April 17, instead of the traditional April 14-16 period, as agreed by the Lao Government. The people will work on April 11 to make up for the one-day extension.

Lao people celebrate their New Year according to the ancient Hindu calendar, which falls around April 14, 15 or 16 in the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is considered to be the most important and biggest traditional festival in the country.

The festival, coinciding with the end of the dry season and the start of the monsoon season, features a rebirth and purification theme.

Lao people look forward to New Year celebrations hinh anh 1

According to Lao legend, Pi Mai celebration started after Phaya (King) Kabinlaphom lost his life in a bet to a man named Thammabane Khumman after he was unable to solve a three-part riddle. Per his request, his seven daughters (representing each day of the week) took great care not to let his severed head touch the ground, lest there would be great destruction throughout the world.

Kabinlaphom’s head was kept at the Kantoumalycave until Pi Mai when each of his daughters took turns cleansing it.

Today, this story is re-enacted during the country’s New Year celebrations. The community chooses a female to represent Nang Sangkhane, one of the seven daughters, to lead a procession or parade showcasing a replica of Phaya Kabinlaphom on a ceremonial tray called Khan.

For 2015, Nang Sang Khane (or Miss Lao New Year) will be selected as Kabinlaphom’s third daughter, known as Harksa. Her dress (mola) is made from silk with a lotus design. Blood will be her food and she will carry a three-point sword (conveying the message that everyone needs to be careful on the road). She will also ride a pig with arrow in her left hand.

Every year, the practice is changed, varying in the king’s daughters, her dress, food, symbolic weapon, and the animal she rides.