Christmas Celebration Amongst the Lao Community


My dad asked me about Christmas, he recalled that when he was younger, people in Laos also celebrated Christmas which he once attended a church service at midnight on Christmas eve back in the 60s, somewhat of a strange tradition to him since Buddhism is the dominant religion in Laos, which Theravada Buddhism was introduced in Laos in the 14th century. At the time, his friend explained to him that it was to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I explained to him that it was Christmas Eve communion service, which I had attended before in the past but I’m wondering if they take bread and wine in Laos, or was it sticky rice and rice wine, this my dad can’t recall but I’m sure it was the traditional bread and red wine.

My dad said that those that lived in that village were cast from towns, and that Christianity had a negative connotation because most Lao people back then believed that if you were a Christian, then you were also a Pee Bpop, and in this case by not understanding the religion made people to assume for the worst as my dad explained that the Christian church did not turn away anyone that went to them. Pee Bpop was well known in Laos, and Issan region of Thailand. It was believed that it was some sort of demon that’d take control of a person’s body, and would give that person a ghostly power to go out and eat the elders, children, women that recently gave birth, and mainly the sick or weak that can’t help themselves. What would they eat? I guess mainly the inside of your body. Those that became Pee Bpop knew that they were Pee Bpop, but many times would try to hide it because it was socially unacceptable in Laos.

I can’t say for sure if Christianity is currently more acceptable in Laos, as I read in the past about the murder of a Protestant Evangelist, pastor Aroun Voraphom on December of 2005 in Pakading, Bolikhamsai province (Central Laos), and also the arrest of 28 Christians in 2004 on Christmas day in several Lao provinces, the sentencing of two Christians who refused to renounce to their faith to three years of imprisonment, the prohibition of the ordination of Catholic Priest Somphone Vilavongsy in Vientiane, and many more incidents which clearly showed that the religious repression still continues in Laos.

The Lao communities in the US are more accepting of Christianity, as many Laotians in the United States have embraced Christianity. As for me, I’m a Buddhist, but I do observe and celebrate Christmas and I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.