New Year’s — a time to start fresh — whether it’s with resolutions or a simple flip of the calendar.
In Laos, you have more than one chance to do just that, with multiple New Year’s celebrations throughout the year. There’s the international New Year with a midnight countdown. The Hmong New Year with colourful traditional clothing. And Lao New Year, a three-day celebration.
At Ock Pop Tok, with such a diverse team, all of these celebrations are well-represented.
The Hmong New Year, or Nor Phe Chao, falls on the first new moon in the 12th month of the lunar calendar. This year it wrapped up just recently in mid-December. During the week-long celebration, Hmong villages come together for food, dancing and the pov pob, a ball-throwing game between boys and girls traditionally meant as an effort to meet each other’s potential marriage match.
Hmong New Year has been a previous topic at our Shop Talk series. Here’s an excerpt:
One of the highlights of New Year celebrations are the ornate skirts Hmong women make to wear during the festivities. Lengths of batik cloth are fashioned into a skirt which also showcases embroidery and applique skills. After embellishment, the skirt length is gathered up and folded like a fan, creating a circular shaped garment. These skirts are worn daily but every woman makes a special skirt to wear for New Year. A skirt can take up to five or six months to make. Skills are passed down from mother to daughter, with a mother taking great pride in her daughter’s work. Inspiration for batik motifs comes from the natural environment: snail shells, animal teeth, ferns and cucumber and pumpkin seeds.
Each village has it’s own style and colours, resulting in a rainbow of ornate, beautiful textures and textiles. These differ than the day-to-day traditional fabric choice: hemp (you can take a Hmong Batik class here at Ock Pop Tok).
Lao New Year, or Pi Mai, is in April — one of the hottest months of the year. So it’s apt that it’s celebrated by water…lots of water! It’s a traditional time of cleaning with (you guessed it) water. But that’s evolved to involve anyone willing to go out in public during the celebration. It’s hard to walk anywhere without getting doused with water yourself. There’s also a Miss Lao New Year contest and several processions over the course of three days. While we recommend coming for Pi Mai if you’re willing to join the party, make sure you pack an extra poncho!
For more of the history, check out The Washington Post from a few years ago: In Luang Prabang, Laos, Lao New Year is drenched in color — and water
And of course, there’s the international New Year. While it means different things for different people (coming from the U.S., I think of resolutions, ball-drops and Dick Clark), many celebrate by counting down the minutes with their family and close friends. (Here’s more on other celebrations throughout the year in Laos.)
And as we come upon another new (calendar) year, it’s also a time to reflect back. 2015 was one for the books at Ock Pop Tok:
- 15 years and counting.
- Expanding, from outlets in Vientiane and Pakse to our riverside Mekong Terrasse and garden cafe (coming soon!).
- Serving tens of thousands of guests — taking classes or staying in our tranquil villa or simply stopping by for the free tour. We’re lucky to meet each and every one.
During this holiday season, one thing’s for sure at Ock Pop Tok: with the sharing of traditions and cultures, it truly is East Meets West. We hope to see you in the New Year, whichever one you celebrate!