The Festivals of Myanmar
It is almost impossible to visit Burma and not experience one of the hundreds of Burmese festivals that are celebrated across the country throughout the year. Cultural or religious events, these festivals are a riot of colour and pageantry, music and dancing. Here is our guide to the best of the Burmese festivals:
THADIGYUT FESTIVAL OF LIGHT – October
Whilst in Yangon, enjoy the Thadingyut Light Festival, a celebration of the Buddha’s descent from the heavens after he had preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya. Buildings and houses across the country are festooned in coloured lights and candles to welcome him back to earth. The streets are thronged with people browsing the markets and food stalls which spring up during this time and traditional open air plays and concerts take place everywhere. As it signifies the end of Buddhist Lent, there is an abundance of music and dancing.
PHAUNG DAW OO PAGODA FESTIVAL – October
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Burma. The celebrations take place over more than 20 days. Four out of the five revered Buddha images are paraded around the lake in an elaborate, gilded barge pulled by traditional long boats manned by hundreds of rowers. Throughout the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival rowing competitions are held, which makes for a wonderfully visual spectacle. Pilgrims from all over the country come to this festival to pay homage to the four Buddha images and gain merit whilst enjoying the festive air of the event. The mysterious fifth Buddha image is left to ‘guard’ their original resting place at the Phaung Daw U Pagoda whilst the festival takes place.
THINGYAN NEW YEAR WATER FESTIVAL – April
Thingyan is the Burmese New Year Water Festival and it usually falls around mid-April. A Buddhist festival celebrated over a period of four to five days and culminating in the New Year, it is the most important public holiday in Burma. From the second day, people throw water at each other from a variety of vessels – from small bowls to large water cannon! – to symbolise the cleansing of the sins of the year.
TAUNGGYI / PYIN OO LWIN BALLOON FESTIVAL – November
Taunggyi in Burma is famed for its Balloon Festival, with balloon competitions throughout the day and night. Day balloons are usually in the form of pagodas, and animals such as elephants, dragons or ducks. At night, the balloons are usually in the shape of a rugby ball, huge elongated paper balls with hundreds of small lighted multicoloured paper lanterns hung around their sides. The night balloons would string along fireworks and fire sticks which are set off mid-air creating a spectacular display.
The ceremony is accompanied by musicians who play and dance to lively traditional Shan music and the partying goes on in the festival tents until dawn. This wonderful and slightly barmy festival makes for an incredible climax to a magical stay in Burma.
There are hosts of other Burmese Festivals which are celebrated throughout the year, click here to see the full list for 2019
Do you want to join the fun and spectacle of a Burmese Festival? Check out some of our itineraries for inspiration and talk to us about creating one just for you that takes in a colourful festival.