Khmu festival celebrates ethnic culture

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Local culture, fun and even a touch of mystery can be experienced during the colourful Boun Krer or Khmu New Year festival, which is normally held in January or February in most northern parts of Laos.
The Khmu village near the Nam Kat Yorlapa resort in Oudomxay province is holding a Boun Krer this weekend (January 19-21) with a variety of packages organised for guests along with accommodation ranging from tents to rooms at the resort.
The resort is providing pickups from the airport in Oudomxay provincial capital for pre-booked guests.  
According to the resort, besides the traditional activities, the event will feature a whisky distilling competition with Khmu from many villages in Oudomxay looking to impress guests with their finest drop.  

Villagers take part in traditional activities during Boun Krer or the Khmu New Year festival.

The annual Boun Krer is a time when Khmu people show their gratitude and pay respect to their ancestor Khoun Cheuang and their crops, mainly rice, taro and other root crops, which have been their staples since time immemorial.
The festival is celebrated after the rice harvest and its main purpose is to thank the spirits of the land and ensure a better life and a good yield in the next harvest.
Khmu people return home to celebrate and wear traditional costumes with a baci ceremony also held. The baci bamboo tray is decorated and filled with agricultural produce, khaotom (boiled rice wrapped in banana leaves), sweets, and boiled chicken.
Entertainment includes dancing and Khmu style singing.
The Khmu at Nam Kat Yorlapa live in a small organised village which is just a short walk from the resort.
The village is clean with a pretty stream running through the community. The locals live in timber Khmu style houses with wooden carved animals hanging from poles also adorning the village. In the centre of the Khmu community is a club where villagers perform their music and dance for visitors.
Every night about five performances are staged in the village. The distinctive Khmu dance uses bamboo trunks to beat in time with the music, and while it needs a certain amount of skill to be fluent in the dance it’s not too hard for visitors to join in.
The Khmu are settled agriculturists which is the main source of their food, supplemented by gathering, hunting, trapping and fishing. Some Khmu keep domestic animals, but these are used for sacrifices more often than for food. Rice is the staple and there are many varieties, all of them glutinous. Other crops include sweetcorn, bananas, sugarcane and a wide variety of vegetables.
Khmu villages can be quite large with up to 150 families. They are traditionally settled on forested slopes, between 400 and 800 metres above sea level.
The Khmu usually settle near a river where they can bathe, get water supplies, go fishing and hunt for frogs. In the dry season, they harvest seaweed.
While in the past small livestock was intended just for consumption and exchange, nowadays it represents an important source of income in most villages.
The Khmu, also known as Khamu or Kammu, are the second largest ethnic group  in Laos. Only the nation’s Lao Loum population is larger. The Khmu live in settlements scattered throughout the country.

By Keoxomphou Sakdavong
(Latest UpdateJanuary 20, 2018)

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