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Holidays and Festivals

Myanmar Public Holidays

Friday 4th January Independence day
Saturday 12th January Karen New Year
Tuesday 12th February Union Day of Myanmar
Saturday 2nd March    Peasants Day
Tuesday 26th March Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Wednesday 27th March Armed Forces Day
Friday-Sunday 12th-21st April New Year Water Festival
Wednesday 1st May Labor Day
Friday 24th May Full Moon Festival Celebration of Birth of Buddha
Friday 19th July Martyrs’ Day
Monday 22nd July Full Moon Day of Waso
Saturday 19th October Full Moon Day of Thadinkyut
Monday 18th November Full Moon Day of Dasoungmone
Wednesday 27th November National Day of Myanmar
Wednesday 25th November Christmas

 

Myanmar Traditional Festivals

Thingyan Festival (Tagoo Month)

water festivalThingyan Festival falls during the mid-April. April is the first month of the Myanmar Calendar and is considered as the hottest month in Myanmar but it is also the most joyful and cheerful moment for Myanmar people. Thingyan means Change, expressing the end of pass year and the beginning of New Year.

Thingyan Festival is also known as Water Festival or Myanmar New Year Festival. The best part of Thingyan Festival is throwing water over friends and even strangers on the street which means you can throw water to anyone on the street unless they are monks, nuns and very elderly people.    

Pouring water in New Year is meant to wash away minds of evils and sins accumulated in the year that was left behind, purify the body and bring peace and good luck to the people for coming New Year. Along the street, you can see the decorated stages (Mandats) filled with traditional and modern music, dances and open top cars, jeeps and trucks standing in long lines ahead of Mandats. You can also see children playing water with water pistols and buckets inside the cute green pandals easily made from coconut branches. Thingyan Festival is not only for fun and amusement but also there are kindliness and sharing and caring all around.

Most of the elderly and some youngsters go to pagodas or monasteries, offering alms to monks and nuns, keeping Sabbath and do meditation. Some do a lot of meritorious deeds like releasing fish, cattle and other captive animals, shampooing and cutting nails for elderly and offering food to everyone for free. Talking about Thingyan Festival, we should not miss Mote Lone Ye Paw (Floating Sticky Rice Ball). During Thingyan Festival, both elders and youngsters, even children, make this traditional snack and offer to revelers. The other thing that symbolizes Thingyan is Padauk flower that fully blossom only during the Thingyan period. This year Thingyan Festival falls from 13th to 17th April.

If you don’t mind getting wet, you can join the festival regardless of your nationalities, age and religion. This is the most thrilled occasion that you should not miss.

Pouring Water on the Bo Tree Festival (Kasone Month)

kasone festival“Bo Tree Pouring Water Festival” usually falls during the month of May. This festival normally falls on the Full Moon day of Kasone Month and is also known as “Kasone Festival”. This year “Kasone Festival” falls on 24th of May. On that day, the sacred Bodhi in pagodas are ceremonially watered.

During that period, people go to pagodas and monasteries, offer alms, keep Sabbath and do meditation. Most importantly, Bo Tree (also called Maha Bodhi) symbolizes three significant events of Buddha – the Birth of Buddha, his Attaining Enlightenment at the foot of Bo Tree and Passing Away of Buddha. Since it is an important Buddhist holiday, people of all ages go to pagodas grounds by carrying pots of water on their shoulders or heads to pour on sacred Bo Tree and oil-lamps and candles to be lit as respects to the sacred Bodhi Tree. The seasonal flower is sagar.

Recitation Test on Buddhist Texts (Nayone Month)

nayone festivalThe rainy season starts from June in Myanmar. During the month of Nayone (June), the atmosphere around Myanmar becomes wet and this is the month that the monks usually hold a conference, also called recitation test. It has the same nature as examining those who study in secular schools.

These examinations have been held with insignia and ceremony since the days of the Myanmar Kings. In the whole month of Nayone, the examinations are held at nation-wide for monks and nuns nowadays.

The Buddhist people donate offertories to the monks who are entering the examination as an encouragement and a fact to be rejoiced and taken pride. The examinations have different levels varying from lower to middle and higher levels. The examinations are very difficult to pass. Therefore, those who pass the exam are highly honored. The Buddhist people donate offertories to the monks who are entering the examination as an encouragement and a fact to be rejoiced and taken pride.

Waso Robes Offering Festival (Waso Month)

This ceremony occurs during mid-July. “Waso Robes Offering Ceremony” is usually held in high schools, universities, monasteries, company offices, and even in government offices where the robes are offered to the monks by individual or group and those who join the ceremony are served with food.

Another prominent day during Waso is the Full Moon day of Waso. This day is the anniversary of the first Sermon that the Buddha preached. Starting from this day, monks are restricted to travel and sleep outside for 3 months by the religious rules and regulation. Starting from the Full Moon day of Waso, some people keep Sabbath once in a week for 3 months which we call “Wa Twin period”.

Lot-drawn Offering to Monks Festival (Wakhaung Month)

During lot-drawn offering ceremony, people offer not only meals to the monks. However, people offer not only meals, rice, oils, salts, vegetables and fruits but also other variety of offers such as stationary, medicine, slippers, robes and other necessities nowadays. Since the values and types of donations are different, drawing lots is a better way to choose the recipient.

The names of monks or monasteries are written down on a piece of paper and it is rolled not to be seen. When a person draws lots, he or she has to offer of meals to the monk whose name is written on the paper. For the offertories, they are selected due to the drawn-lot properly. This is also an interesting and enjoyable festival. People gather at community halls and draw lots, hoping to get the lot with the name of their revered monk. If it happens as they hope, they feel glad. Although they miss their chance, they gladly make offerings to the monk chosen by lot. Today, this ceremony is held by village, by ward or by sector that people live. All the people whether they are rich or poor can participate in this ceremony where they can donate what they are affordable.

Regatta Festival or Boat Racing Festival (Tawthalin Month)

tawthalin festivalDuring this month, ponds, lakes, streams and rivers are full of water and the surface is calm and peaceful. Therefore, it is a good time to hold boat racing festival. Regatta festivals are exciting and interesting. The festival was held since the days of Myanmar Kings. In the olden days, regatta festivals are allowed to be held on the surface of Royal Lake of Yangon but it no longer exists nowadays.

But you can still watch Regatta festival in Inle Lake, famous for its leg-rowers, where the festival is usually held around the end of September and begin of October. This year Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival will be held from 5th to 22nd of October for 18 days where you can see their unique leg-rowing races in this one and only place in the world.

Thadingyut Light Festival (Thadingyut Month)

thadingyut festivalThis festival is held to welcome Buddha who is returning from the celestial abode where he preached Dahma (Teachings of Buddha) for three months, repaying his filial gratitude to his mother who was reborn as a Deva. People lighten the lights showing the way to the earth for Buddha to be seen.

During this month, people pay homage to their parents, grandparents, teachers and elderly relatives as a symbol of gratitude and ask for their forgiveness of their mistakes. Paying homage ceremony are usually organized and held in schools and universities where the students pay homage to their teachers and apologize for their mistakes committed during the year.

In almost every street, you can see houses, public buildings, parks and monuments decorated with colorful lights and electric bulbs or simply with plastic or paper lantern or candles lighting. There are also children and young people playing with fireworks or flying the hot air balloons to the sky.

Kahtein Festival and Tazaungdine Light Festival (Tazaungmone Month)

tazaungmone festivalKahtein Robes Offering Festival is held to offer robes to Buddha and monks who are in need of new robes after the rainy seasons. People usually collect donation around the houses or villages for the Kathein ceremony. Everyone can contribute whatever they are affording to not only money but also other necessities such as sets of new robes, alms bowls, soaps, towel and so on for the monks. Those offertories are hung in wooden triangular shape or other shape structures which we call “Kahtein Tree”. Sometimes, cash papers are decorated in the shape of tree, fan, flowers or animals such as peacock. Then, people go to monasteries with the Kahtein trees in line to donate them to monks. There is also comedian performance or other music and dances along with the queue.

You can still hear the sounds of fireworks and see the illumination on the streets and buildings. There is a huge hot air balloon festival held in Taunggyi during Tazaungmone where people had competition of launching fireworks and hot air balloons. This is the place where one can see hot balloons flying both on day and night occasion. Day balloons are usually in the form of pagodas and animals such as chickens, elephants, duck, birds or dragons and night balloons are with small lighted colorful paper lanterns alongside and fireworks hanging down from the balloons.

Festival for Literary Activities (Nattaw Month)

This festival falls during the mid-December. This is the time for literary activities and this is the month for the writers, poets and composers. During this month, people hold events for literary competitions, lectures by famous writers and debates and public lectures by the famous writers where the audience can have the direct contact with them. They lectured, exhorted and discussed matters on social duties, literature, culture, nationalism and the construction of the nation. There is National Award-Giving Ceremony that is held by the government annually on Sasodaw Day which falls on the first Waxing Day of Nattaw.

Equestrian Festival (Pyartho Month)

During the month of Pyartho, Equestrian Display Ceremony was held in the days of Myanmar Kings where the Horse-back heroes were honored and appreciated for their art of riding. This festival was held for the defense purpose of the nation and inspecting the ability of the soldiers.

In the cavalry parade, all the warriors show their skills such as archery, swordsmanship, bowmanship, horsemanship, elephant-riding skills, infantry, lancing and other martial arts and combat in warfare. Then, the king and queen themselves bestow prizes to skillful knights with plenty of craft are rewarded with golden coins and headbands and worth positions in his army. However, the traditional equestrian festival is no longer held nowadays. It has vanished together with the Myanmar monarchical age.

Hta-Ma-Ne (Glutinous Rice) Festival (Tabodwe Month)

tabodwe festivalHta-ma-ne is a traditional snack made of glutinous rice, fried coconuts, sesame, salt, roasted peanuts, and ginger in peanut oil. Hta-ma-ne Festival is held during Tabodwe where people make Hta-ma-ne and offer to the Buddha and monks and share among the community.

Hta-ma-ne Making Competitions are held communally in the school, universities, villages and respective community. These competitions are not only a work of merit and unity but also communal enjoyment. It is not an easy work to make Hta-ma-ne since stirring in a big frying pan is strenuous job. Food is shard and duties are shard too. Two men stir and fold the contents to be mixed with wooden ladles in the size of oars and a third man place between them and coordinating their actions who is the most tired person among them. Even the strong men exert a lot of energy and sweat profusely. This festival is carried out everywhere in the country.

Sand Pagoda Festival (Tabaung Month)

tabaung festivalThis is the last month in the twelve Myanmar traditional months. In the past, sand-pagoda festivals were held on the sand banks of river. People build pagodas made of sand at places far away from potent pagodas, may be because of the poor transportation. It is probably venerating sand-pagodas in dedication of some pagodas.

During Tabaung month, many pagoda festivals are held at potent pagoda in towns and regions. Having rows of stalls in the pagoda precincts and nearby, the pagoda festival is well attended. Products from all over Myanmar are sold by setting up stalls. Plays, movies, circuses and magic shows are also included. Food-stalls also have a variety of snacks. Therefore, if there is a pagoda festival, it means venerating the pagoda, shopping and enjoying.

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