Source: Vientiane Times
A bright, sunny morning yesterday saw people across the country flocking to temples to present their offerings to monks as a means of making merit on the last day of Buddhist Lent.
Even though it was a working day, large numbers of devotees made it a special occasion by taking silver bowls full of offerings to their local temple.
Government leaders and state officials also joined worshippers, carrying candy and yellow plastic pails filled with items needed by monks and novices in their everyday life.
With the end of Lent comes the beginning of the wedding season as no one marries during the Lenten period, with couples believing that if they do their marriage will end in divorce.
Many people who gave up drinking alcohol during Lent to rest their liver will now start to drink again.
The Ork Phan Sa festival is an annual tradition which marks the end of the three month period during which monks and novices reaffirm their commitment to Buddhism.
During the festival’s early morning almsgiving, believers raise their offerings above their head to ask for blessings from the monks and Buddha.
Mr Onchanh Souksangoun, from Phontong village in Vientiane, said the offerings given to monks at the end of Lent would be passed on to the spirits of deceased relatives. Devotees also prayed for a healthy and prosperous life.
At 7 pm last night, many temples held a candlelit procession with monks and believers walking three times around the main hall of worship to show their respect and pray to Buddha.
Temples displayed longboats assembled by monks and set up flickering candles around the temple grounds as a colourful end to the Buddhist day.
Along the Mekong River in Vientiane, thousands of colourful boats handmade from banana leaves and bearing flowers, incense and candles could be admired as part of the longstanding tradition called Lai Heua Fai.
The floating of small candle-lit boats on the river pays homage to the river spirits and is believed to dispel bad luck.
Naga fireballs often rise from the river depths on this day of the year; Lao people believe the Nagas appear to honour Buddha after his religious devotion during the three-month rainy season.
Some mark the festival in their homes by lighting candles around their balconies and prayer altars, wishing for harmony and good luck.
On the following day, boat races are held on the Mekong River, drawing huge crowds to cheer on the competing teams and enjoy the bustling atmosphere.