That Luang Festival is dubbed as the most significant festival of the year in Laos. It is held at the most religious monument of Pha That Luang or the Golden Stupa. This is one of the Buddhist festivals which lasts from three to seven days during the full moon of the month of November or October depending on the Lunar Calendar.
Activities in festival
The first activity in That Luang festival is a colorful candlelight ‘wax castle’ procession which is held at WatSimeuang. Many groups gather and walk three times around the main hall of worship in honour of the Vientiane city pillar which is considered one of the most important in Vientiane. According to legend, when the pillar was laid, a pregnant woman threw herself to death under the pillar as it was being dropped into position. Nang Si is now seen as the guardian of the city and every year homage is paid to her and Lord Buddha during the festival.
To continue the procession, thousands of people gather to bring their glittering creations to pay homage at That Luang. People often choose their best clothes to wear and there is also a parade of men and women dressed in various Lao ethnic costumes who dance and play traditional music and songs as they approach the stupa.
This festival is a good occasion for many Laotians living abroad to come back to visit their family. They sit around together and say what they did in last year and plan a traditional picnic. Lao people also play some traditional game like Tikhy in these days.
The festival draws to a close under a full moon, when people from all over Laos will crowd around the Pha That Luang for one last candlelight procession, bearing posies of flowers, incense and candles. Normally these days there are also firework displays to mark the end of the celebration.