It’s an amazing experience to celebrate the new year in Laos, as it must be in Thailand or Cambodia. I’ve been both in the capitol of Vientiane and in rural towns in Laos during new years. For us falang we’re used to new years being basically a one day/one night event. From my experience in Laos it goes on for at least a week and basically everything shuts down as people gather for parties at homes, businesses and general events. There seems to be endless non-stop parties. And traveling on a motorcycle was a dangerous experience fifteen years ago and I can only imagine it’s ultra dangerous now with the intensity of drinking and people throwing water.
I’ve had the most fun in my wife’s parent’s village when they brought in a band and we wandered through the village, stopping to celebrate with neighbors, etc. I even remember my father-in-law throwing me in the river running through the village. Unfortunately a town upstream has dammed the river and the river no longer flows through the village. Unconscionable really. And they’re not allowed to bring in a band anymore. Rural Laos is changing dramatically, and often for the worse.
But, I think we must all remember that the new year celebrates and honors a time that is
“… rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begins with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced. On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away one’s sins and bad luck. As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders. As a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of elders’ hands. Paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of new year tradition.” – Wikipedia
At our house Bai has taken all the Buddha statues, which I moved for her, and placed them on trays in front of the altar in our house where she washed them with perfumed water. And our house got a pretty thorough cleaning (easier said than done with a young daughter who prefers messes to order!).
The illustration of kan dokmai was drawn by Nick Bowen, one of the illustrators of Sinxay