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Festivals in Myanmar

January

Ananda Pagoda Festival

Dates: Fullmoon Day of Pyatho to 15th Waning of Pyatho
Duration: 15 days

This is the biggest and most important pagoda festival in Central and Upper Myanmar. Villagers come in caravans of covered ox-carts and camp out for the duration of this exciting country fair, The Fullmoon Day of the Myanmar month of Pyatho, which falls on January 13, marks the height of the celebrations, with one thousand monks from a hundred villages in the vicinity arriving to accept offerings of filled alms bowls. With their crops having recently been harvested, famers have the time and the money to enjoy themselves.


Naga New Year Festival

Dates: usually Jaunuary 14 to 16
Location: either Lahe or Layshi, Kachin State
Duration: 3 days

The Naga national race comprises many different tribes with their own languages and culture, They meet once a year to sing, dance and feast, dressed in the fanciest of their costumes.
Other Festivals in January are;

  • Shwe Oo Min Pagoda Festival (Pindaya, Shan State)
  • Kachin Manao Festival (Myitkyina, Kachin State)

February

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Dates: 14th Waxing and Fullmoon Days of Tabodwe
Locations: Mandalay
Duration: 2 days

February is the coldest month in Myanmar and at the Maha Muni Pagoda Festival, devotees light bonfires and cook huge pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut and sesame to offer to monks. In other parts of the country this sticky rice is cooked as a celebration of the harvest and distributed within communities.


Sticky Rice Cooking or Hta-ma-ne

Dates: anytime during Tabodwe
Locations: throughout the country

To celebrate the harvest, communities and organizations cook giant pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut, peanuts and lots of sesame, which is wrapped in banana leaves and given to neighbors and friends.


Shwe Setta Pagoda Festival

Dates: Begins 5 th Waxing Moon Days of Tabodwe
Location: Shwe Settaw, Magwe Division, central Myanmar
Duration: 1 day
(but this holiday site remains open until April)

There are two pagodas which enshrine footprints of the Buddha. The site is on the banks of the Mann Creek, where bamboo cabins are erected every year for local revelers to enjoy cool swims during the heat of summer.

Other Festivals in February are;

  • Maw-tin –sin Pagoda Festival (Pathein, Ayeyarwaddy Division)
  • Indawgyi Pagoda Festival (Kachin State)
  • Pindaya Cave Pagoda Festival (Shan State)
  • Chinese New Year
  • Salone Traditional Festival( Myeik Archipelago)

March

Ko Gyi Kyaw Spirit Festival

Dates: 3rd Waxing Moon Day of Tabaung
Location: Pakhan, Yayza Gyo Township
Duration: 8 days

Ko Gyi Kyaw is a happy spirit who loves to drink, gamble and see his worshipers sing, dance and be merry. He is the patron of gamblers. This annual festival in his honour is celebrated on his home town.


 Kekku Pagoda Festival

Dates: Begins 14th Waxing Moon Day of Tavaung
Locaion: Kekku ancient pagoda complex, near Taungyi, southern Shan State
Duration: Three Days

There are more than 2000 pagoda in the Kekku Pagoda complex, built several centuries ago. It is in a valley surrounded by beautiful scenery. Usually deserted at other times, tens of thousands of members of the Pa-O, Shan and Danu national races arrive by foot or boat to celebrate this festival.

Other Festivals in March are;

  • Shwedagon Pagoda Festival (Yangon)
  • Shinpyu (Novitiation) Ceremonies

April

Water Festival and Myanmar New Year

Dates: Usually 13 to 17 April (New Year’s Day)
Location: throughout the country

Duration: Four Days of throwing water and the last, New Year’s Day, devoted to doing good deeds in all towns and villages, people carry water guns or buckets to douse anyone seen on the street while the more sedate attend meditation sessions or keep the Buddhist precepts. Communities prepare sweets to give out to passer-bys and at night, the people are entertained with songs and dancing by both professional and amateur performers.


Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda Festival

Dates: Begins day after New Year’s Day
Location: Bago
Duration: Seven days

Classical theatre troupes perform their best here so they will be booked by agents for the next pagoda festival season. With the advance money they make new costumes and settings and rehearse throughout the monsoon Buddhist Lent  yeriod.

Other festivals in April is;

  • Popa Nat or Sprits’ Festival (Mount Popa)

May

Ritual of pouring water on the Bodhi Tree

Dates: Fullmoon Day of Kason
Location: Pagodas throughout the country
Duration: 10 Days

This ritual commemorates the date 2500 years ago when the Buddha gained enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. Pilgrims pour water on the Bodhi trees in pagoda compounds to keep them fresh in the summer heat of May.

Other Festival in May is;

  • Taung-yo Torchlight Procession Festival (Pindaya, Shan State)

June

Pakoku Thihi Shin Pagoda Festival

Dates: 8th Waxing Moon Day of Nayon
Location: Pakoku, Central Myanmar
Duration: 15 days

Pakoku is an old traditional town on the western bank of the Ayeyarwady River. This pagoda festival is the most important for all towns west of the Ayeyarwady and produce from the region, such as dried chili, homespun baskets and tobacco are sold every year at this huge country fair. The best thanakha trees, the bark of which is ground to make the purely organic make-up cream worn by many Myanmar women grow in this area.

Other festival in June is;

  • Nayone Festival of Tapitaka

July

Waso Festival Date: Centred around the Fullmoon Day of Waso

Location: throughout the country

This festival commemorates the time when the Budda gave His first sermon, to five monks. Pilgrims throughout the country gather wild flowers to offers at pagodas and offer new robes to monks. The Buddhist Lent period is from the Fullmoon of Waso until the Fullmoon of Thadingyut.


 Caaneball or ‘Chinlon’ Competition

Date: Ends on the Day after the Fullmoon Day of Waso
Location: Mahasmuni Pagoda compound, Mandlay
Duration: Seven Days

Actually it begins about a month before the ending date but the last week displays the skill of the best teams, who must pass a woven ball of cane between its members without touching it with their hands… they use heads, shoulders, knees, elbows, heels. Points are given for grace and style. This game is where no one team goes heads on with another in aggressive competition, unique in the world of sports.

August

Taung Pyone Sprits Festival

Date: 10th  Waxing Moon Day of Wagaung
Location: Taung Pyone Village, near Mandalay
Duration: 12days

Taung Pyone is the site where two brothers serving a king of Bagan in the 11th century were executed. They became powerful spirits or Nat. This festival in their honour is attended by tens of thousands of mediums and worshippers. A ritual is celebrated each day. Toddy palm wine, whisky, rum, grilled rabbit and fried chicken are offered to the two spirit brothers, Orchestras come to play for the mediums who dance to make the spirits joyful.


 Yadana Gu Sprit Festival

Dates:10th Waning Moon Day of Wagaung
Location: Amarapura, near Mandalay
Duration: Five days

This festival honours the mother of the two spirit brothers referred to above. She is the Goddess of Popa and her main shrine is on Popa Crest, near Bagan. She too is a powerful spirit and protector of women.

September

Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

Dates: 1st Waxing Moon Day of Thadingyut
Location: Inle Lake, southern Shan State
Duration: 18 days

Four of the five images of the Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda are carried by a golden with ceremonies and there is much rejoicing while the images are at the villages. The fifth image has not left the pagoda since an incident in the 1970s when it was on a barge that capsized during a sudden storm. The image fell into the lake and was no recovered but it was miraculously found back at the shrine when the processing surrounding mountains carry fruit and flowers on lacquer trays in their own boats and pay homage as the holy barge passes. Teams of the lake’s famous leg-rowers compete in annual boat races this great country fair.

October

Festival of Light

Dates: One day before the Fullmoon Day of Thandingyut, the Fullmoon Day and one day after
Location: Throughout the country
Duration: Three days

This festival commemorates the time when the Buddha returned to earth after preaching in the abode of devotees greeted Him with lamps and lanterns. People decorate their houses with candles and coloured lanterns to symbolise this event. The festival of Light marks the end of Lent.


 Dancing Elephants Festival

Dates: One day before the Fullmoon Day of Thadingyut and the Fullmoon Day
Location: Kyaukse, about 40 km southeast of Mandalay
Duration: Two days

On the first day, colourfully decorated cloth elephants with two men inside compete in dance competitions. The ‘elephant’ with the vest dance performance and behavior wins the fold. Food and flowers are offered to the pagoda on the second day.

November

Kahtein Ritual Offerings

Dates: all through since the end of Lent on the Fullmoon Day of Tahdingyut
Location: Throughout the country
Duration: Month

Sets of new robes and other offerings such as slippers, umbrellas, alms bowls, food, Cash offerings for monasteries are also collected and displayed on wooden frames buit in the shape of a tree. New cash note are folded into bird and flower shapes.


 Hot Air Balloon Festival

Dates: 10th Waxing Moon day of Tazaungmon
Location: Taungyi, southern Shan State
Duration: Five days

The daytime competitions are for balloons made in animal or bird shapes. At night balloons have a bamboo frame over which hand-made paper is glued, The hot air is generated by burning rags under the opening. Balloons are judged for size, style, design and the time they remain aloft. On the night of the Fullmoon Taunngyi townsfolk hold a parade around the town carrying colourful lanterns.

December

Popa Guardian Spirits Festival

Dates: Begins Fullmoon Day of Nadaw
Location: Mount Popa, near Bagan
Duration: Six days

The two spirit figures on either side of the Tharaba Gate at Bagan are the brother and sister spirits Lord of the Mountain and the Lady Golden Face who protect home or country. A festival takes place at Mount Popa in their honor.


 Kyaik- hti-yo ‘golden Rock’ Pagoda Nine Thousand Lamps

Date: Evening of December 31
Location: Kyaik-hti-yo ‘Golden Rock’ Pagoda, Mon State
Duration: One evening

On the platform of the Kyaik-hti-yo ‘Golden Rock’ Pagoda devotees light nine thousand lamps to welcome the New Year and to give thanks to Buddha’s peaceful philosophy. The magical Golden Rock Pgoda, a golden spire, sits on top a huge boulder covered with gold leaf and perched on the edge of a cliff.

 

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