The Khmu Ethnic Group: The Khmu, also known as Khamu or Kammu, are the indigenous inhabitants of northern Laos. While the Lao population is larger, the Khmu are primarily found in provinces such as Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, Phongsaly, and Xieng Khouang.
The Khmu are settled agriculturists, practicing swidden farming, and rice is their staple food, supplemented by gathering, hunting, trapping, and fishing. In addition to rice, the Khmu people cultivate other crops such as corn, bananas, sugar cane, and a variety of vegetables to meet their dietary needs.
Khmu New Year Boun Pod Pi or Boun Krer: The Boun Krer festival is a cultural celebration that reflects the deep connection of the Khmu people to their heritage, ancestors, and the land they cultivate. It is a time of unity, joy, and reverence for their traditional way of life. It is a significant annual event where the community comes together to pay gratitude and respect to their ancestors, particularly Khoun Cheuang, and their staple crops, especially taro and root crops.
Processions and Customs: The festival starts with processions that showcase the customs and way of life of the Khmu people. This includes sword dancing, the practice of seedling with stick digging in the ground (“may sak khaohay”), drum beating, and gong hitting.
Traditional Costumes: Celebrants wear Khmu traditional costumes, adding to the cultural richness and authenticity of the event.
Baci Ceremony: A Baci ceremony is an integral part of the celebration. It involves a bamboo tray decorated with agricultural produce, khaotom (rice wrapped and boiled in banana leaves), sweets, and boiled chicken. Participants pay respect to the elderly and exchange wishes for good health, happiness, and a bountiful harvest in the coming year.
Traditional Performances: The celebration includes various traditional performances, such as Cheum-Khmu traditional song singing, Khene sound playing, and flute performances. The dances showcased during the festival include Phorn Sak Khan Doung, Nang Keo, and Phorn Lai Gnao.