Makbeng is an essential feature of every Buddhist ceremony in Laos

Published on April 21, 2013

Makbeng are an essential feature of every Buddhist ceremony in Laos. The bright pieces are an embellishment at any Buddhist ceremony, whether the occasion is a wedding, a house warming or a welcome for special visitors. Details with our news team on how the Makbeng is also a jewel of the baci ceremony.

The brightly decorated pieces are an embellishment at any Buddhist ceremony, whether the occasion is a wedding, a house warming, or a welcome for special visitors. Without fail, a pyramid shaped flower decoration will take centre stage at the baci ceremony as the guests sit around it in a circle.

The ceremony is intended to bestow good fortune on those in whose honour it is held, along with the guests, who are always immaculately dressed and include people of all ages.

Even if you’re a foreigner in Laos, whether to travel or to work, at some stage you are bound to be invited to take part in a baci ceremony. This is most likely to occur at a wedding, the New Year, or at an event simply to bestow good wishes on a special guest, perhaps even yourself.

If the host is a home owner, an office director or a business operator, and holds a baci ceremony in your honour, whether to welcome or farewell you, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to sample the essence of Lao culture.

The baci ceremony is ubiquitous; apart from the traditional occasions, the Lao may also organise a baci if someone in the family has been injured in a road accident or is suffering from bad health.

The ceremony calls upon the spirits to bring good fortune into the life of the honouree and to set their lives on the right path.

During the course of this ceremony, everyone’s eyes will be on the gaily coloured makbeng, to which white strings are attached and then tied around the wrist of each participant. As one ties on the strings, wishes are expressed for a long, happy, prosperous and successful life. Other items deemed to bring good fortune are also included in the ceremony and shared among the participants, including a cooked chicken, boiled eggs, cookies, and bananas.

Makbeng also feature as the central offering when devotees go to a temple to worship on designated ‘Buddha’ days that are determined by the lunar calendar. They are also an integral part of rituals at festivals, such as the annual That Luang festival.

A makbeng is traditionally made of banana leaves, which are tightly woven and interspersed with glowing marigolds, and sometimes frangipani.

In the past, makbeng used for a baci or wedding were about 60 to 70cm high. But nowadays they may be as high as 120cm and come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on personal preference.

Traditionally, makbeng were always adorned with marigolds, but these days roses and other flowers may be added, along with some made out of polystyrene. But whatever flowers are used, they must include marigolds.

Makbeng are an essential feature of every Buddhist ceremony in Laos. The bright pieces are an embellishment at any Buddhist ceremony, whether the occasion is a wedding, a house warming or a welcome for special visitors. Without fail, a pyramid shaped decoration will take centre stage at the ceremony as the guests sit around it in a circle.

This is one Lao tradition that continues to flourish among people from all walks of life and in all corners of the country.

LNTV Lao News broadcast on 16/4/2013