Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) in Laos
Boun Bang Fai takes place around some villages of Nason, Natham, Thongmang, Kern, Pakhanhoung in the suburban of Vientiane capital. This traditional merit-making ceremony is often celebrated in the sixth month of lunar calendar (around May or June). Preparation for the festival is carried out several weeks before the festive days with the participation of different communities.
The most impressive and characterized activity of Rocket Festival is launching self-made firework rockets. These rockets are made by stuffing gunpowder inside a nicely decorated bamboo. Rocket bamboos have various sizes from small to very large. On the first festive day, after sacred ceremonies, bamboo rockets are carried to the communal launch-pad for joining an interesting contest. Firstly, villagers joining in the contest will be divided into teams basing on the size and shape of rockets. Scores are given based on 3 criteria: highest flyer, beautiful decoration, entertaining performance. Before launching the rocket, men in women’s clothes and elaborate mask dancing and singing around the rocket to call for rain and pray for this message successfully sent to the God. Rockets are launching in the applause and joyfulness of the crowd. If any team cannot make rocket explode and fly, the leader of that team will be punished by drinking muddy water or Satho (rice whisky). During the festival, there are a variety of traditional food are prepared to serve guests.
Rocket Festival is a unique traditional religious festival of Laotians reflecting their distinguished concept of nature and instinctive way of thinking. With interesting rocket launching activity, Boun Bang Fai deserves to be a cultural highlight of Laos.