Lao New Year, 2599 lunar calendar. Battlefield, heritage city of “Luang Prabang”.

Pi Mai Laos as well as being a time of celebration and endless fun, it has also become synonymous with holiday, the celebration of Lao identity, the reinforcement of family bonds and an opportunity to reflect on the year ahead. Although the Lao new year is celebrated in throughout the country, nowhere hosts more ancient traditions than the heritage city of Luang Prabang. In times past, celebrations lasted for around three weeks as the entire population of the city indulged in an apparently endless round of ceremonies, rituals, games and processions. There is a colourful parade filled with a variety of traditional Lao costumes, music and dance, the procession of the sacred Prabang Buddha image and the Miss New Year beauty contest (only for virgins).

Water is shot through water guns or splashed from buckets and pans, creating and enormous water fight that’s impossible to avoid. Traditionally, you wish ‘Happy New Year’ (‘Sok Dii Pimai’) before pouring water over someones head – symbolizing the washing away of sins committed in the past year. In fact nobody really cares. First you get chased, then soaked with Mekong water and finally rubbed with baking powder or colors – followed in rare cases with the term “Happy New Year”.

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