Rice and Lao culture have long been associated. Besides being the staple food of the Lao people, rice has also been important in forming ways of life and cultural values passed down from ancient times and inherent in the beliefs, customs and religious ceremonies still being held.
Our ancestors thus devised various rituals related to rice as ways of life and behaviours handed down throughout the ages.
The worship of the Rice Goddess Mae Pho-sop, the making of propitiatory offerings to spirits, and observance of sundry rites take place throughout the yearly cycle of rice.
From planting to harvesting, each ritual is regarded by rice farmers as being of utmost importance since it means their lives and the abundance of the life-sustaining staple.
Rice is an essential factor of life in the Laos. “Without clothes, a roof is good enough; without rice, there is no sleep,” is a common local aphorism.
Rice sustains people’s lives and social events whether religious, economic or political, all find their roots in the abundance of this staple food.
Laos has many colorful and fascinating festivals throughout the year, with the most having links to religion or rice harvesting cycles.
There are also a number of local festivals that have their own characteristics. Boun Kongkao or rice harvest festival is one of the year’s most important festivals and is celebrated in villages throughout the country honoring agriculture and expressing appreciation for the spirit and abundance of the land and rice harvest.
This festival usually takes placed in January or February in the third month of the lunar calendar, after the rice has been harvested.
Villagers take the new rice to the temple where it is piled up on the floor. Each family decides how much rice to give. The rice will be sold and the proceeds used for the temple’s maintenance. Following this, monks and village elders hold a Baci ceremony. A special blessing is given in thanks for the new harvest and everyone prays in hope that next year’s harvest will be even more fruitful.
The culmination of the festival is a huge feast with plenty to eat and drink and which continues well into the night. This is a very festive occasion, which everyone eagerly anticipates. In some communities, wherever there is a festival, the villagers hold a special ceremony where they call upon the local sprits to come and protect the village against misfortune.
This year, the authorities of Phieng district, Xayaboury Province and local people celebrated the rice festival Boun Kong Khao Yai across the district with each village holding their own rice festival and each family bringing paddy and milled rice to offer at temples to show their respect for the rice.
The annual festival features religious rituals, paddy and milled rice parades, a Miss Great Rice Pile contest, singing contests, sport events, trade fairs, and elephant riding.
Source: Lao News Agency