Myanmar, the land of Pagodas, is a must-see destination for travelers, which is not only famous for its historical monuments but also for its outstanding traditional culture. The country is well-known as the land of Festivals as well due to numerous celebrations that take place all over the year. The majority of festivals are cultural and religious and based on the Buddhist lunar calendar and determined by the moon’s phase. Here are the 5 most important festivals in Myanmar, let’s discover with Myanmar Private Holidays.
Thingyan, widely known as Water Festival, is the Burmese New Year festival that usually takes place around mid-april over a period of four or five days. It is also the most important public holiday in Burma.
A wide range of religious activities start on the first day of the festival – the eve of New Year. Buddhists will observe the Eight Precepts instead of the basic Five Precepts. People bring alms and traditional offerings to pagodas and pour fragrant water from head down over the Buddha statue. By nightfall the real celebrations start. People dress up for the occasion by wearing thanaka with flowers on their hair, take to the street and be immersed in music, song and dance.
The real fun takes place on the next day, when the water festival truly begins. At a given signal, a cannon (Thingyan a-hmyauk) is fired. People spray water at each other by means of vessels, from pistols to hoses to symbolize the cleansing old year’s bad luck and sins, and make a fresh start of new year. On the final day, water throwing still goes on until the late hours of night. During the festival, government buildings and businesses are closed.
Following the end of the water festival is New Year’s day, which is dedicated to traditional customs. People visit their relatives and offer shampoo beans. You can also see the hair washing ceremony on this day as the young people wash the elderly’s hair. Along with the activity, Burmese also release fish into rivers, make food donations to those who come to enjoy the festival.
TAUNGGYI BALLOON FESTIVAL
Drawing thousands of people from all over the country, Taunggyi balloon festival is the most impressive event of the year which takes place in mid-November at Taunggyi and lasts around 6 or 7 days.
In the festival, hot air balloons of various shapes and sizes are released into the sky daily. The act of releasing balloon is meant to ward off evil spirits and float one’s sins.
The best time to go to this event are on the first or second day. There are also live music and food stalls set up around the festival grounds.
KASON WATERING FESTIVAL
Kason is another water-related festival held after Thingyan one month, usually falls on the second month of Myanmar calendar (which is May of English calendar). It is also one of the most important festivals of Myanmar people, with the aim of honouring Buddha’s birthday. During the month of Kason the length of the day is longer and the night is shorter.
The full moon day of Kason represents four most important days in Buddha’s life:
1. The day he had been prophesied to become the next Buddha,
2. The day Buddha was born,
3. The day he achieved Enlightenment,
4. The day he entered Parinirvana.
During this event, all Burmese go to pagodas to participate in the water pouring ceremony at the Maha-Bodhi tree, under which Buddha achieved enlightenment. The act of this is not only showing respect to the Buddha but also keeping trees green and lush since the festival takes place in the hottest season.
ANANDA PAGODA FESTIVAL
It is one of the biggest festivals in Bagan that symbolises the limitless wisdom of Buddha. The festival takes place in Bagan, around the Ananda temple and falls in January or early February (depending on the Lunar Calendar) for around a week, and the last days of the festival are the best time to participate in.
It is held with the aim of raising money for the upkeep of Bagan’s thousand-year-old temple and meant for social gathering, reunification, propagation and perpetuation.
Stalls and shops surround the temple and sell everything. Villagers come to the festival by bullock carts, put tents to stay during the whole festival.
If you are looking for a chance to enjoy the traditional atmosphere, this is the perfect festival for you.
Thadingyut, also known as Lighting Festival, is the second largest festival in Myanmar and held on the full moon in October, marking the end of Buddhist Lent.
People lights candle during the festival to honor Buddha’s descent from heaven to earth. Houses and buildings are covered in lights, and pagodas are crowded with people bringing food and offerings for the monks.
Moreover, this is the time for younger generation to pay homages to their elders. Throughout the country, people take to the street and gather to celebrate this religious event. At the festival, there are light shows, music in every city.