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That Luang Festival Downsized Due To Covid Outbreak

Source: Vientiane Times

Vientiane authorities are making plans for the annual That Luang festival to take place on November 17-19, but the event will be limited to religious and other traditional festivities, to reduce crowding and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

There will not be a street fair with goods on sale, and the main almsgiving ceremony on the That Luang esplanade will also be cancelled.

The popular and revered festival takes place in November every year to pay homage to the grand stupa and is attended by devotees from all over the country.

Director of the Vientiane Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Ms Vilayvone Chanthalaty, said the festival will take place on a smaller scale than usual, due to the increasing number of Covid cases in the city. 

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While the main almsgiving ceremony will not take place around the That Luang stupa itself, there will be smaller almsgiving events at temples near the stupa, such as That Luang Neua and That Luang Tai temples, in order to limit the number of participants, Ms Vilayvone said.

On the first day of the festival on November 17, prayers will take place for about an hour when the main entrance to the That Luang stupa opens. This will be limited to monks and a small number of other participants. The gate will then be closed, and the monks will not sleep in the area around the stupa as in past years.

The second day of the festival will see monks presented with the traditional decorated wax castles, but there will be no parade of these ornamental structures that are made as offerings to Buddha.

On the final day, there will not be a mass almsgiving ceremony but people living near the stupa can give alms at That Luang Neua and That Luang Tai temples. After leaving their offerings, devotees must go home and not remain inside the temples for worship, Ms Vilayvone said.

There will be a candlelight procession at 7pm but the number of participants, including monks, will be limited to 50 people. The gate to the That Luang stupa will then be closed, but fireworks will follow at 9pm in a final act of homage to the stupa.