M

yanmar is home to a number of seasonal festivals which are celebrated throughout the year. The most well-known of these is the Burmese New Year festival, which takes place in April. However, there are also a number of other Myanmar festivals which take place during different times of the year.

Some of the other Myanmar festivals which are celebrated include the Water Festival, which takes place in June or July and celebrates the start of the rainy season. The Hot Air Balloon Festival is held in Taunggyi in November and is a popular event when people release hot air balloons into the sky.

Just as Gregorian calendar, Myanmar calendar also have 12 months in a year. Myanmar is also home to a number of Buddhist festivals including the 12-months Festivals which take place according to the days of traditional Myanmar calendar.  This festival celebrates the life of Lord Buddha and is a time when people from all over the country come together to pray and make offerings. No matter what time of year you visit Myanmar, there is sure to be a festival taking place that you can enjoy!

1) Thingyan New Year Festival in APRIL

The Burmese New Year, Thingyan, is probably the most well-known of all Myanmar festivals. It takes place over a period of four days in April throughout Myanmar. It's a time when people from all over the country come together to celebrate. During Thingyan, water is thrown on people as they walk through the streets . This is said to represent the washing away of all the bad luck from the previous year and making good deeds by donating meals and snacks, helping the daily life of elders or taking Sabbath. People also dress up in costumes and paint their faces, and there is a lot of music and dancing. If you're visiting Myanmar during Thingyan, be prepared to get wet and have fun!

Thousand of People celebrating Thingyan water festival (2013)
Thousand of People celebrating Thingyan water festival (2013)

2) Kason Bo Tree Watering Festival in MAY

The Kason festival, which is held in May, is one of the most significant festivals in Myanmar's religious life. It marks the day when Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment, and died. Furthermore, it's also the day when the Buddha tree rises from the ground as a sign that Gautama Buddha will soon arrive. There are lots of banyan trees in Myanmar, particularly around the pagodas. The sacred Bodhi tree provides a restful environment as well as majestic, elegance, and charm. On Kason's full moon day, thousands of Buddhist devotees anoint the Maha-Bodhi tree with scented water to protect it from dying of drought in May, when temperatures are the highest in Myanmar. Tourists visiting the Kason celebration will have an opportunity  to learn about Burmese religious customs and their belief in Buddha.

3) Nayone Tipitaka  Festival in JUNE

This festival celebrates the completion of the Tipitaka, which is the Buddhist scriptures. The Tipitaka was written down by monks over a period of 700 years, and contains all the teachings of Buddha. During the festival, religious examinations are held for Buddhist monks and nuns, and lay students. There is also a competition which sees people trying to correctly recite passages from the scriptures. In this month, the scents of jasmine flowers spread through the environment. The Nayone Festival is a great opportunity to learn more about Burmese Buddhism and its history.

4) Waso Dhammasekya  Festival  in JULY

The Waso festival is held in July and marks the start of the Burmese rainy season. Buddhists Lent starts from this month and the monks stay in their temples and practice meditations for three months. People bring them food, robes, medicine, money and other items that they need. The elderly often fast and prepare offerings. Robe Weaving Competitions are also held throughout the country on the full moon day of Waso. This is a time of giving and charity, and is a wonderful opportunity to see the Burmese people's religious beliefs in action.

5) Waguang Sayetanme Festival in AUGUST

Wagaung is a month for distributing alms by casting lots. Depending on the donor's resources and willingness, communal groups seek contributions to make alms-bowls, one or more per person, depending on the amount of money available. Each bowl contains a rice meal with a curry and fruit pie.

Monks are invited to receive the bowls, and lots are drawn. The monk is then assigned whichever bowl his lot falls. That's not where it ends. Each contributor is given a number of his bowl and another set of numbers is drawn for the winning number. The fortunate donor usually receives a prize in return and then he can do further good deeds. Thus, casting lots for alms-bowls is a festival of fun and promise.

6) Tawthalin Boat Racing Festival in SEPTEMBER

Tawthalin means "the sky is clear '' with nice weather. Tawthalin month is full of a romantic aura. During this time, the rivers are calm and quiet, inviting aquatic sportsmen to participate in the activities. This is a month dedicated to boat races. Boat racing has been an important part of Burmese history since the reign of kings. Songs, poems, and novels prove that boat races aren't just about speed; they also display talent and grace. On the full moon day of Tawthalin month, people submit to the five virtues to  have good luck and keep virtuous.

7) Thadingyut Lighting Festival in OCTOBER

The Festival of Lights, Thadingyut festival, is held  in October, is a time when people decorate their homes and businesses with lights. It is a time when people celebrate the end of the Buddhist lent period. This is a celebration of the Buddha’s return from heaven where he had spent the lent teaching of Dhamma to angels including his reincarnated mother. It is a time for forgiving bad actions to elders including parents, teachers, relatives and friends. It is also Christmas time in Myanmar because family members gather to celebrate the Lighting Festival together. If you're visiting Myanmar during the Thadingyut festival, be sure to enjoy the celebrations!

Offering Candle Light at Pagoda in Thadingyut Lighting Festival 
Offering Candle Light at Pagoda in Thadingyut Lighting Festival 

8) Tazaungmone Offerings Festival in NOVEMBER

In this month, Burmese people celebrate the Kahtein Festival which involves robes and accessories, foods, medicines and novel money collected from the neighborhood and offered back to monks. On the way to the monastery, people sing and dance in order to spread donation joy around the neighborhood. 

There is also the famous Tazaungdine light festival celebrated this month. Taunggyi Tazaungdine Festival is  one of the most spectacular Myanmar festivals, which is held at the end of November. It's a festival of lights, when huge hot air balloons are released into the sky, carrying with them thousands of lanterns.  It's a festive season in the truest sense of the phrase.

People releasing Tazaungdine Hot Air Balloon together
People releasing Tazaungdine Hot Air Balloon together

9) Nattaw Literature Festival in DECEMBER 

In Nattaw festivals, ceremonies of Award Giving in a variety of Literary Fields are typically observed. In the ancient histories of Myanmar kings, there are award writers like Na-wa-de, Nat-shin-naung, Seinda-Kyawthu, Let-wei-thondra, Myawady Mingyi U Sa, U Ponnya, etc. U Ponnya is famous as “Burmese Shakespeare” for his writing skills by modern writers. He wrote 7 plays based on buddhist jatakas, the well-known one is “Yethe Pyazat'' (ရေသည်ပြဇာတ်) which is included in Myanmar Matriculation Curriculum and others literature as poems, songs, treaties and verse letters. He was awarded the title of “Minhla Thinkhaya '' and Ywazi Village by the King. On the first full moon waxing day of Nattaw, Writers' Days events are held across the country, with literary talks between speaker and audience discussing literary topics. It's the best festival month for readers and writers across the world. 

10) Pyatho Equestrian Festival in JANUARY

The festival is held in honor of the Burmese kings selecting their heroes as competitions in horsemanship, bowman ship, lancing and swordsmanship, shooting and martial arts. But unlike the ancient days, Independence day of Myanmar is held on the 4th of January with the spirit of Nattaw. On this day, we celebrate our independence from colonial times by holding races  like running and playing games in our residential  wards. At the end of the day winners get the prize from the funding with the ward. Nowadays, Pagoda Festivals in remote regions are mostly organized in Nattaw Months as the weather is nice to have fun.

Pagoda Festivals are mainly based on the local Pagoda and celebrated with the religious ceremony. There are many local pagoda festivals in Myanmar and some of them are very famous like Shwedagon Pagoda Festival, Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival, Bawbawgyi Pagoda Festival, Ananda Pagoda Festival and so on. Each festival has its own festive occasion and uniqueness. Famous Ananda Temple festival is held on the full moon day of Pyatho Month and is full of joyous activities. Most of the Pagoda Festivals have theaters where Myanmar Traditional dances can be enjoyed along with the comedy presented by Burmese comedians, shops which sell varieties of goods starting from daily products to household decorations, carnival games shops, etc.. As the Pagoda Festival, the main activity is offering foods, flowers, gold leaf, lights, robes to Buddha while considering all the Buddha taught us a way to reach Nirvana.

11) Tabodwe Glutinous Rice Festival in FEBRUARY

This is the seasonal delicacy month which has a traditional Htamane competition history of Myanmar. There are groups in the competition and each group has 4 to 5 people. Every group has to make one delicious Htamane, starting from making fire to complete presentation. The best team is awarded after the audience voted based on the taste, presentation, hygiene and cooking methods. 

Htamane (Glutinous Rice)
Htamane (Glutinous Rice)

The competition starts on the full moon day of Tabodwe and the snack is donated to many people around the neighborhood as festival gifts. The dessert is also a glutinous rice-based snack consisting of groundnut oil, ginger, water, coconut shavings, peanuts and sesame. This rice is considered to be lucky, and it is eaten to bring good luck in the coming year. The festival is also a time for Burmese people to give thanks for the bountiful harvest. If you're visiting Myanmar during the Tabodwe Glutinous Rice Festival, be sure to try some of the rice!

Check out Myanmar Desserts here- Traditional Burmese Desserts you must Try.

12) Tabaung Sand Pagoda Festival  in MARCH

The Burmese month of Tabaung is the last month of the Burmese calendar and it is also the month when the Sand Pagoda Festival is held.  During the festival, people build sand pagodas and decorate them with flowers, leaves, and other materials. The pagodas are then placed on the banks of rivers and lakes. The festival is a time for people to come together and celebrate the end of the year. It is also a time to give thanks for the bountiful harvest. If you're visiting Myanmar during the Tabaung Sand Pagoda Festival, be sure to check out the pagodas!

Novitiation Ceremony, known as ShinByu, is also one of the Burmese festivals when young boys between 10 to 20 years old take temporary Buddhist monkhood for a short period of time, mostly for a month during  the Burmese lent. Burmese Buddhist Parents are very proud of their son because giving birth to one of Buddha's Son is a merit and the greatest gift for good deeds of their life. families with daughters are also proud of their daughters because they can give birth to future novices and for this life they add their donations in the novitiation ceremony. Some families get together and celebrate the ceremony by walking around the neighborhood before accepting to become a novice and shave their head. It's a great way to learn about Burmese culture and religion. 

Young Boy celebrating Novitiation Ceremony
Young Boy celebrating Novitiation Ceremony

Nowadays some of the Burmese traditional festivals do not occur in the cities like Yangon and Mandalay because of the times and modernizations but the history still remains. Instead, there are festivals celebrated in respective region of Myanmar to enjoy ethnics culture and traditions like Naga New Year Festival in Sagaing, Shwedagon Pagoda Festival in Yangon, etc.. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Myanmar festivals. There are so many traditional festivals you can find during your trip in Myanmar. So, if you have a chance to visit Myanmar during the festival season, don't miss it! Burmese people are friendly and helpful, you will never regret it.

Posted 
June 24, 2022