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Festival Information

Festivals and Ceremonies

The people in Myanmar are fond of festivals and ceremonies, which is usually based on culture or religion. All of these festivals are unique, with having a special purpose, usually to a higher purpose. Observing the lives of Myanmar people, their culture, and customs is an experience of a lifetime, and perfect for those wanting to dive into different cultures. The festivals are usually celebrated on a Burmese calendar and below is a list of festivals that is divided into each month.

January

Kachin Manaw Festival (Myitkyina)
The colorful festival is traditionally celebrated by Kachin tribesmen. During this festival, everyone feasts together, sipping Khaung Yay (traditional alcohol), and dance together in their ethnic costumes on the sacrificial ground all night long as a sacrifice for the gods. This festival is usually celebrated on and around the 10th of January

Naga New Year Festival (Naga Land)
The colorful festival is traditionally celebrated by Kachin tribesmen. During this festival, everyone feasts together, sipping Khaung Yay (traditional alcohol), and dance together in their ethnic costumes on the sacrificial ground all night long as a sacrifice for the gods. This festival is usually celebrated on and around the 10th of January

February

Bon Fire Ceremony (Pyay)
Full moon day in the month of Tabodwe is when NyanYoe Plants which emit no smoke when lit, are burnt at four cardinal points on the platform of the pagoda in the early morning of 15th waning day. Worshippers then proceed to Pho U mountain, where legends say Buddha has visited and made preordination of events. This festival usually falls on the first week of every February.

March

Maw Tin Zun Festival (Pathein)
During this festival, pilgrims come together at Maw Tin Zun to enjoy different recreational activities alongside the seashore. The festival usually falls at the end of February or the first or second week of March and last about 15 days.

Pyidaw-Byan Image Festival (Zalun)
The Buddha Image was first taken to Mumbai by colonialist but later regained in Zalun. It is known as the returnee pagoda in Myanmar. During this time, robe-weaving contest and alms-bowl offerings are done. The festival last around 1 week and falls in between the end of February to the first week of March.

Inn Daw Gyi Festival (Moe-Nyin)
During summer, a footpath leading to the mid-water pagoda surfaces, enabling pilgrims to walk to the pagoda. In other times, the pagoda is surrounded by a large volume of water, making it near impossible for people to visit. The festival usually falls at the end of February or the first or second week of March and lasts about one week.

BawGyo Image Festivals (Thibaw)
During this festival, a large volume of Shan and Myanmar merchandise is traded. There are boat-races on Dotehtawaddy River, and the festival is celebrated usually on the first or second week of March and lasts about five days.

Ko Gyi Kyaw Festival (Bagan)
Ko Gyi Kyaw is a Nat (spirit) who is known as a drunkard and a gambler. He is one of the 37 nats, which are famous all-around Myanmar. The people believe that by worshipping Ko Gyi Kyaw, he would bring prosperity and take over all the enemies in our lives. During the festival, the nat is coaxed to ascend the throne; nat figures are cleansed with water and then re-gilded. The drum thumping for the nat and cock-fighting can be seen during the celebration. The festival usually falls on the first or second week of March and lasts about 6 days.

Pindaya Cave Festival (Pindaya)
In this festival, different ethnic minorities can be seen coming together to celebrate together like other Taung-yo Pagoda festivals. The festival usually falls on the first or second week of March and last around 1 week.

April

Thingyan Festival, (Water Festivals) (Throughout the country)

The merriest among all festivals, Thingyan festival is celebrated in the entire country, where everyone takes a break from work and pour water on each other. This is believed to wash out the impurity during the Burmese new year. During this time, people eat Motelone Yaypaw, which is a traditional Burmese snack that is enjoyed during this time of the year. As this is Myanmar’s biggest festival, one should experience it if their time allows. It usually falls on 13th April and lasts for 3 to 4 days, depending on whether it is a leap year or not.

Thanaka Grinding Event (Sittwe)

In the late evening on the eve of Thingyan Festival, young women grind thanaka bark into a fine cream on stone slabs using water. During this time, they are accompanied by young men playing music. This festival falls on the 13th of April annually.

Animal freeing Ceremony (Throughout the country)

Buddhists, young and old alike, spend the last day of Thingyan Festival performing meritorious deeds like releasing animals, offering food to monks, paying homage to elders. During this time, people free animals such as fish into the wild in order to start the new year with good deeds. This festival falls on the 17th of April.

Sand Stupa Event (Twante)

During this event, stupa made of sand is built on the compound of Shwesandaw on the receding day of Thingyan. One can also enjoy buffalo dancing at this event. This event is sponsored by descendants of Shans that have migrated over a century ago and is celebrated on the 17th of April.

Popa Ceremony (Mount Popa)

A large number of pilgrims pay respect to Nat shrines on the top of Mount Popa where we can observe the cults of spiritualism. This ceremony falls on the 17th of April annually.

May

Shwe Kyet Yet Event (Mandalay)
On the waxing day of Kason, people in full traditional costumes procession march towards the sacred Bo-Tree and pours water. This festival falls in the first week of May and lasts for a day.

Shittaung Festival (Mrauk Oo)
On full moon day, people celebrate by having dummy boat races on land and real boat contests followed with water splashing in Mrauk Oo. Another part of the celebration is traditional wresting at the foot of Shittaung where the finals are held on the full-moon day. The festival usually falls in the first or second week of May.

Kason Day (Throughout the country)
Known as Buddha’s birthday, people around the country commemorate this day by pouring water onto the sacred Bo tree and give offerings such as food and drinks to Buddha and monks. This festival is usually celebrated in the first or second week of May.

Taung Yo Festival (Pindaya Cave)
During this festival, torchlight procession by Taung Yo tribe in the early part of the night occurs to pay homage to the thousands of Buddha statues in the cave. This festival usually falls in the first or second week of May on full moon day of Kason month (Myanmar calendar).

Pa-Oh Rocket Festival (Water Hole, Taunggyi and other areas of Shan State)
On this day, locally made rockets stuffed with gunpowder are ceremoniously carried and launched in competition. This is done to be observed, mostly by ethnic Pa-Oh people, to predict the weather and crop for the coming year. During this time, young men and women use small mirrors to tease one another. The festival usually takes place during the month.

June

Buddhist Recitations (Kaba Aye Hillock)
During this ceremony, recitation of five parts of Nikaya is held at Kaya Aye Hillock. Similar recitations are also held throughout the country by monks and nuns. However, there are some differences depending on the location you are in. The ceremony usually falls on the first or second week of June.

July

Full Moon Day of Waso (Throughout the country)
This day is believed to be the beginning of Buddhist Lent and special occasions and recitations are held in pagodas everywhere in the country. During this time, Buddhists would give offerings to monk such as robe for monks. This festival usually takes place in the first or second week of July.

Guardian Spirit Ceremony (Sittwe)
Women of Sittwe annually gather at the cliff where they believe the Guardian Spirits dwells. They would stick yellow papers onto the boulder with banana paste as an offering. The festival usually takes place in the first or second week of July

Shwe Kyun Bin Ceremony (Mingun)
Native marine vessels, big or small, gather together to pay homage to the Nats (spirits) while plying on the Irrawaddy River. During this time, they perform spirit dances. The festival usually takes place at the end of July or the beginning of August.

August

Taung Byone Ceremony (Taungbyone)
The ceremony takes place in the village of Taungbyone, 20 km north of Mandalay. Tens of thousands of Burmese people attend this annual celebration, in honor of Taungbyone Brother Lords. People would have a washing ceremony for the two brothers, and it is believed that those who would clean the two brothers would have purification of one’s mind and be prosperous throughout his or her life. One can visit this ceremony to experience the traditional ways of life of the Burmese people and their belief in Nats. This festival falls within the first or second week of August and lasts for one week.

September

Yadanagu Ceremony (Amarapura)
The festival is held annually in honor of Popa Medaw (mother of Taungbyone Brother Lords). When one visits this festival, he or she might see the Kinship between Nats and humans. There is plenty of music that the people would dance to. One can also experience celestials or devas of different levels and how they are involved in the Myanmar way of life. The festival usually starts on the first or second week of September and lasts for around 8 days.

Rice-Donating Ceremony (Sagaing)
Sacks of white rice are donated from around the country in large volume, which is offered to rising monks and nuns of Mandalay and Sagaing. Nuns are presented on the 14th of waxing day and monks on full moon day. The festival usually takes place between the second or third week of September and lasts for 2 days.

October

Thadingyut Festival (Light Festival) (Throughout the country)
Thadingyut marks of the end of monsoon, where the skies become clear once again. This festival is celebrated on full moon day where people believe that it is the time where Buddha descends to the abode of humans. People would illuminate their homes, streets, and buildings with candle lights or colored electric bulbs to welcome Buddha and his disciples. This time is also for remembering those whom we owe respect and gratitude, especially to our elders. This festival usually falls in the second or third week of October and lasts for three days.

Dummy Elephant Festival (Kyaukse)
From the 14th waxing day until the full-moon day, numerous life-size dummy elephants would sing and dance to the music. The dances are very cheerful and during this time, you will discover Burmese people preserving the traditions that have been passed down for many generations. The festival usually takes place between the second or third week of October and lasts for 2 days.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake)
The festival of Phaung Daw Oo is the biggest occasion in Inle Lake, which is held with great magnitude, where funfairs and dances are held. The holy images of Buddha from the Pagoda are placed on the Karaweik (Mythical Bird) and towed by leg-rowers. During the pagoda festival, one can find food stalls, toy shops, magic shows, puppet shows, and dramas. Unique to this festival is the Shan traditional boat races participated by leg-rowers of both men and women dressed in their national costumes. As a stranger to the land, the glimpse of the festival and the excitement of people’s native culture will be remained in their lifetime. The festival falls between the first and second week of October and lasts for 18 days.

Shwezigon Festival (Bagan)
At Shwezigon Pagoda, people would carry candle lights and fireworks to give offerings to the pagoda. The festival usually starts in the first or second week of October and takes 15 days to complete.

Kyaikhtiyo Festival (Golden Rock Festival) (Kyaikhtiyo)
On the full moon day of Thadingyut, pilgrims would come together at Kyaikhtiyo to pay respect to the holy land. The festival usually falls on the second or third week of October and lasts for a day.

Kyauk Taw Gyi Festival (Mandalay)
The image of the stupa was cast out of a single piece of alabaster in 1854 under the guidance of King Mindon. The festival usually takes place in first or second week of October and lasts about five days.

November

Hot Air Balloon Festival (Taunggyi)
In the Myanmar month of Tazaungmon, Buddhist people celebrate by setting off flying lanterns into the fly. This festival is one of the biggest festivals in Myanmar as tens of thousands of people would gather together to look at beautiful lanterns. The lanterns are gigantic, with different designs, where people judge which lantern is the most beautiful of the competition. The festival falls between the first to the third week of November and lasts for 5 days.

Robe Weaving Contest (Yangon)
At Koe Htat Kyi Pagoda, 9999 candles are simultaneously lit as an offering to Buddha. At midnight, visitors are served with a mixed salad with maezali buds, which is believed to possess magical and medicinal properties if eaten at this time. The festival usually takes place between the second and third week of November and lasts for a day.

Kaung Mu Daw Festival (Sagaing)
During this holiday, hundreds of pilgrimage and people on holidays would come to the pagoda on oxcarts, giving several offerings to Buddha. The festival is around second and third week of November and lasts for 5 days.

December

Powintaung Cave Festivals (Monywa)
The 6 days of ceremony of festival is held at Po Win Taung Cave Pagoda, where devotees of Myanmar come with more than 500 oxcarts carrying clay to the festival. On the ceremony day, they drop these clay pots from the front part of their cart, paying homage to the spirits of the cave. The festival usually takes place in the first or second week of December.

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