Ancestor’s festival day in Laos : Boun Khao Salak
Boun Khao Salak takes place 15 days after Boun Ho Khao Padap Din. It usually occurs in the early September.
Ho Khao Padap Din means literally in lao language « packets of rice decorating the floor ». This traditional celebration (« Boun » belongs in front of every festivity in Laos) is considered as the Deceased’s Day, but also the ceremony of half of the Buddhist Lent. It occurs on the 15th day of the waning moon in the 9th month of the calendar.
During this moonless night, the hell’s king allows exceptionally spirits to come to pick the offerings that their progeny drop under cover of darkness. If they don’t find any, they must settle for other spirits leftovers and can become more or less frustrated. In this case they can launch curses against their disrespectful offspring.
Offerings enable thus to satisfy spirit’s hunger, but also to soften their treatment in hell, thanks to the good religious behavior of their descendants. To celebrate Boun Ho Khao Padap Din, devotees prepare offerings under the form of cakes made with rice and fruits (notably two typical preparations, called Khao Tom and Khao Nom Neb). They are wrapped into banana leaves and dropped in the middle of the night in the pagoda by followers.
People gives other donations to the monks during the morning. They are contained in a « Kouei » (basket made of bamboo), and made up of food and drinks. After a few religious songs, devotees line up and drop their offerings into Monk’s « Bat ». The « Bat » is a receptacle slung at the monks shoulders. They walk in the early morning around the city to get the offering. Believers make then a movement with their hands to the forehead before dropping the offering in the first « Bat ». They do that to every « Bat » until the end of their provisions or of the line.
After these offerings the Yat Nam ceremony consists in bringing some water to be blessed by a monk. Then the water is poured drop by drop on the ground. In this way water and earth will witness the action of penance, just as« Nang Thôlany », the genie of earth.
Every action made during this religious feast has for purpose to get closer to Nirvana. It means showing an exemplary attitude in the living life on earth according to with Buddha’s teachings. In Luang Prabang Boun Ho Khao Padap Din’s day is special and leads to a manifestation much appreciated from locals : the first pirogue’s race of the year, which will end with a big final on the day of the end of the Buddhist Lent !
Regarding Boun Khao Salak, 15 days after Boun Khao Padap Din, ritual ceremonies happens in the same way except for one thing. This time people number the offerings, and the monks will draw them. Each monk receive also in this manner a list of people to pray for (listing the names of the dead persons the family wishes to honor).
Basic necessity such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrush compose the Offering this time. Boun Khao Salak helps people to go throught this time of penance. It also marks the entrance in the second half of the Buddhist Lent. This simplicity in life will end with the festival of Boun Ok Phansa.