Date: Jan 10
Location: Myitkyina and Putao of Kachin state
How does joining a line of people dressed in their best costumes and dancing a spiritual dance around a totem-like pole sound? At the same time, be in awe at the beautiful traditional costumes and the colorful, traditional Manaw poles decorated in Kachin motifs. This is exactly what happens on the 10th of January in Myitkyina and Putao of Kachin state. The Manaw festival is one of the most popular festivals in Myanmar, and has been around for more than three decades. It is a celebration of the New Year by worshiping God Lamu Madai, also known as the God of the Spirits.
Date: Jan 23 to Jan 29
Location Ananda Pagoda, Bagan
During this festival season, you can experience life as it was before cars were invented and people still used bullock carts. Camp out to a performance of famous local theatrical troupes and other traditional entertainments. Ananda Pagoda Festival is one of the most famous pagoda festivals in Bagan. You will have a chance to try out different savory foods and buy many souvenirs at this festival. At dawn on the Fullmoon Day of Pyatho, hundreds of monks line up and make their way between donors lined up on both sides. The local people make many offerings to the monks, ranging from food to personal essentials such as toothbrush.
Date: Jan 12 to Jan 16
Location: Lathe (Layshi) of Sagaing Region
During this New Year festival, you will be busy taking pictures of Naga warriors wearing hats made from bear fur, hornbill feathers, wildboar tusks, and tiger claws. You will also see men in minimal clothing with tiger fangs hanging from their necklaces. Until recently, Naga people were known to take off heads and body parts of their enemies as a way of sacrificing to the gods and for personal glory. They would also hang these parts from trees to “fertilize” the community. Arrows were placed through the eyes of the heads to ward off evil spirits. Although much has changed since then, the New Year festival allows you to learn about the cultures of a variety of different Naga people.
Date: February 12
Location: All across Myanmar
Union Day of Myanmar is a national holiday that honors the day Bogyoke Aung San helped unify all of Burma. Since five days before the Union Day, a ceremony to mark the annual relay of Union flag begins at the City Hall. During the relay, the flag is passed down from people to people and is carried through 35 townships before arriving at People’s Square on Pyay Road for the actual ceremony on Union Day.
Date: Feb 24 to Feb 25
On the full moon day of Thabodwe, thousands of people from across the country gather up at this pagoda to burn a variety of incense sticks for the Myanmar Buddha image as a way of paying homage. In addition, glutinous rice (sticky rice with ginger, coconut and sesame) are offered to the monks. This festival explodes with fun and energy for two days. Mahamuni Buddha image is highly venerated as it is said to be made in front of Buddha himself. The image is covered with 15 cm thick god.
Date: Feb 3 to Feb 10
Location: Pakhan in Yayza Gyo Township
This festival is in honor of Ko Gyi Kyaw, a happy spirit who loves to drink and gamble. It is believed that the spirit possess a person who claims to be able to communicate with him. Locals from around the town gather up at this place and offer Ko Gyi Kyaw drinks and money in return for good luck. Others dance with him and simply enjoy the company of friends and families around them.
Date: One week preceding Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Shwedagon Pagoda Festival is the largest paya pwe (pagoda festival) in Myanmar. Monks recite the Holy Scriptures continuously for 24 hour everyday for the entire week before the full moon day of Tabaung. The Buddhists believe that this will keep the evil away and make the country safer. Donations from those who attend the festivals go towards the preservation of the Pagoda. There will also be competitions of weaving holy robes using traditional looms which will later be offered to the Buddha images at the four corners of the pagoda before dawn.
On this occasion. Sand pagodas are built around the country using clean white sand on the sand banks of river. The people pay homage to this pagoda just as much as they pay homage to the actual pagodas by offering food, lights and flowers. In the rural areas, people believe that such festival will prevent them from three kinds of catastrophes: famine, disease epidemics, and disastrous warfare.
Date: Usually April 13 to 17
Location: All throughout the country
Thingyan festival is the largest and most important public holiday throughout Myanmar. Cool down yourself in this scorching hot weather by participating in the water festival where people throw water at each other in order to wash away last year’s bad deeds. Even ask you walk down a local street, children will splash you with water using small plastic camps and waterguns. However, as you drive through the main streets, you will observe people squirting water with garden hoses and even fire hoses to those who pass by their mandats (stage). Don’t hesitate to participate in this water splashing festival and feel free to splash water at anyone who passes by except monks, nuns, and pregnant women. There will also be performances of traditional dances and songs along with more modern groups. Also, don’t forget to try one of the Mote Lone Yay Paws, Myanmar Glutinous Rice Balls with palm sugar inside. Mote Lone Yay Paw means “round snacks floating on water” and is a traditional food of the Water Festival. Friends and families enjoy their time together as they make the rice balls together, sometimes even putting in a small piece of chili instead of palm sugar in order to prank others. On the last day of the Thingyan festival, people do good deeds by paying respect to the elders. They would have a ceremony where young people would wash hair and cut nails for the elders. They would also gadaw (bowing down three times as a way of showing respect) and offer gifts to the elders. Others also rescue fishes from areas that were drying up or that were captured into larger lakes and rivers with a prayer and a wish saying “I release you once, you release me three times.”
Date: On the eve of Myanmar New Year Festival
Location: Sittwe, Rakhine State
Thanakha is a cream derived from the bark of a Thanakha tree. Both Myanmar females and males use it as a form of sun protection. On Thingyan eye, young women grind Thanakha barks and roots with a sprinkle of water on rounded stone slabs. In order to support the event, young men play musical instruments and dance. After the thanakha is grinded into a fine cream, the people go to nearby pagodas and wash the Buddha images with it as a form of new-year good deed.
Date: Full Moon Day of May (Kason)
Location: Pagodas throughout the country
Since May is one of the hottest months of the year in Myanmar, Maha-Bodhi tree needs to be especially well taken care of in order to keep it alive. Bodhi trees are significant in the Buddhist culture because it represents the Maha-Bodhi tree, where Buddha gained enlightenment while meditating under it. Therefore, the local people gather up at nearby pagodas and pour scented water over the bodhi trees or pagodas in order. This day is celebrated in honor of the day when Buddha was born, the day he gained enlightenment, and also the day he passed away, all of which happened to be on the same day.
Date: Full moon day of Kason (June)
Location: All throughout Myanmar
On this holy day, people across the whole country participate in religious activities such as offering meals to the monks and reciting Pali verses praising Lord Buddha. The monks also deliver sermons to the people and teach them Buddha’s teachings. This day commemorates the Lord Buddha’s first sermon to his five disciples. Together with these five companions, he formed the first sangha: the group of Buddhist monks.
Date: Full Moon Day of Waso
Location: All throughout Myanmar
This public holiday celebrates the day Lord Buddha preached the first sermon of Dhamma Cakka Pavattana Sutta. Buddhist monks take a lent for three months starting on the full moon day. There are also Waso robe offering ceremonies held across Myanmar where people donate robes to the monks for use during their lent. Young men and women may even hand pick flowers for donation to the Buddha image and pagodas.
Date: starts on 5th waxing day of Waso (around July 12) and lasts 21 days
Traditional chin lone (cane ball) tournament is held at Mahamyatmuni Pagoda in Mandalay where players from all over Myanmar gather and participate in the event. At this festival, you can participate in and cheer for the teams in the tournament, or simply enjoy the traditional dances, music, and food on the side.
Date: From 8th waxing day to the full moon day of Wakaung
Location: Taung Pyone village, Mandalay
Thousands of worshippers come to the village in commemoration of two brothers (Shwe Phyin Gyi and Shwe Phyin Lay). The two brothers served King Anawyahtar during the Bagan Era (11th century) and were executed in the village. They are now believed to be powerful spirits. Worshippers offer alcoholic drinks and meat for the two spirit brothers for good luck. There are also Myanmar traditional orchestras for those who dance to make the spirits happy.
Date: From 2st to 8th waning days of Wakaung
Location: Amarapura, Mandalay
Similar to the Taung Pyone Nat Festival, people gather and honor the mother of two powerful spirit brothers previously mentioned (Shwe Phyin Gyi and Shwe Phyin Lay). She is believed to be the guardian spirit of Mount Popa and protector of all women. People enjoy their time as they dance to the music of Myanmar traditional orchestras.
Date: Day before the moon day of Tawthalin
Location: Myinkaba village, Bagan
Manuha Pagoda was built at Myinkaba village in Bagan by Ex-king Manuha of Mon, after he has been taken into Bagan from Thahton as war prisoner. On this day, village people dress up in their best traditional clothes, and enjoy a parade of huge paper-made figures performing to the crowd. The locals also offer a variety fruits and snacks at the pagodas.
Date: One day before the full moon day of Thadingyut, full moon day and one day after
Location: Throughout the country
According to the history of Buddha, people from Singanago welcomed the return of Lord Buddha from the Tavadedinsa (a part of heaven) after his preaching to the celestial beings there. On this day, Buddha was also able to fulfill the gratitude of his mother who had become a spirit there. Myanmar people continued this custom by lighting hundreds of candles and lanterns around the city. This festival also marks the end of lent from Waso (July) by the Sangha (monks).
Date: 1st waxing day to 3rd waning day of Thadingyut
Location: Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Southern Shan State
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda is one of the key attractions of Southern Shan state and is situated in the middle of Inle Lake the pagoda houses five Buddha images from the Bagan era.The festival of the pagoda lasts 18 days starting from 1st waxing day to 3rd waning day of Thadingyut. During these days, people from surrounding communities carry fruits and flowers on hundreds of boats in order to pay homage to the holy images of the Buddha. Competitions of leg-rowing boat races also occur on these days.
Date: One day before the full moon day of Thadingyut till full moon day
Location: Kyaukse Township (about 40 km southeast of Mandalay region)
One can enjoy the dancing competition of colorfully decorated elephant figures made of cloth and bamboo. On the first day of the festival, two men go inside each elephants and compete in a competition of dances and performance. The winners receive gold as a reward. On the second day, food, flowers, and elephant figures made out of rice and wheat are offered to the pagoda.
Date: The day after the full moon day of Thadingyut
Location: Shwe Kyin Creek of Shwe Kyin Township, Bago region
The festival comprises of daytime boat-rowing competition and synchronized paddling exhibition by separate teams of women and men. However, the climax of the festival falls only after sun set, when the locals set adrift of hundreds of lit candles onto the water.
Date: Full Moon Day of Thadingyut
Location: Kyaikthiyo pagoda
Enjoy a view you will never forget as the locals lit the 9000 candles and offer 9000 flowers to the pagoda. Rice, sweets and other snacks are also offered to pagoda on the next morning. During this festival, the platform and passage of the pagoda are all filled with pilgrims from all over the country.
Date: Full moon day of Tazaungmon
Location: Throughout the country
It’s also known as Kha-htein ceremony in which people offer new robes and accessories (slippers, umbrellas, alms bowls, food, towels, and soap) to the monks. The offerings that are collected are showcased in a parade on wooden frames built in the shape of a tree.
Date: One day before the full moon day of Tazaungmon, full moon day and the day after
Location: Taunggyi, Shan State
Thousands of local pilgrims and foreign tourists attend this celebration in Taunggyi. The key event of the festival is watching the competition of giant paper animals and brightly lit balloons floating off into the sky. During the 3-day-festival, the sky of Taunggyi city is filled with fireworks and hot air balloons in various shapes such as elephant, horse, ox, bird, fish, owl, and so on. The festival is more vibrant and energetic at night where thousands of people gather up around bonfires and enjoy each other companies as they relax to the beautiful lit up view of the sky.
Date: Evening of the day before the full moon day of Tazaungmon
Location: Famous pagodas around Myanmar, especially Shwedagon Pagoda in Yagon
On the evening before the full moon day of Tazaungmon, there are many robe-weaving competitions of which lasts the entire evening and night at famous pagodas around the country. The ceremony at Shwedagon pagoda is usually the largest and most energetic. The robes from the competition are then offered to Buddha images on the next day at dawn.
Date: Sometimes in December/ First day of the month of Pyatho on Karen calendar
Location: Throughout the country
Karen New Year is celebrated on the first day of the month of Pyatho on Karen calendar as it is special for Karen cultural solidarity. The harvest is finished just a few days before Pyatho. According to Karen tradition, there must be a celebration for the coming of a new crop and the completion of the last year. It is celebrated throughout the country, and typically includes Don Dances, bamboo dances, singing, speeches, and the consumption of lots of food and alcohol.
Inle Lake Shan Hills (TaungGyi) Heho
Ngwe Saung Beach
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