Second day of celebrations for the Lao New Year

FRESNO, California

This religious ceremony is part of a two day Peemai Lao - or Lao New Year Celebration in Fresno County.

Lath Saengchanh said, "It's been great, I'm enjoying out here, every time every year."

The Lao New Year is celebrated with traditional dances, music, and religious ritual. It's held each year on or near April 13 through the 15th.

This is usually the hottest time of the year in Laos. It's also the end of the harvest season - which presents Laotions a reason to give thanks.

Tradition also calls for a washing of Buddha statues and pictures.

Paul Sinprasauth said, "We will wash off all the dirt from the Buddha, we will wash the bad luck off our own self."

Paul Sinprasauth helped organize this year's events. He says the cleansing water is often scented with cologne and flowers.

Sinprasauth also says many will offer up prayers at what is known as a sand stupa. The decorative mound represents the community and family. "So we believe the smoke from the incense will send the message to the gods or ancestors."

Organizers say several thousand people attended this weekend's Peemai Lao.

"I hope that next year more people can come," said Bounlath Souksavong. "We invite our American friends to come to join us to see our culture so they can understand our culture too."

At last year's celebration several people were arrested after a large fight broke out. This year - alcohol was banned from the event and more security was added.

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