Welcome to the land of festivals! What is special about Myanmar? Well, Myanmar will ease your pain and reduce your stress with social festivals and religious festivals all year round. I bet you will love them.
It’s getting hot day by day, by the way. The calls of cuckoo, a bird which Burmese composers never miss to write about, on a tree log bring the smell of hot summer. Hearing its songs excites us and reminds of water festival, which is coming soon in next month, Tagu La, the very first month of Myanmar Calendar.
Thingyan, water festival in Tagu
Tagu sounds very meaningful to Burmese and represents an awesome water festival of Myanmar which is Thingyan water festival. We celebrate it in mid April, the hottest time of year in Myanmar but the cool water is a great relief. To beat the heat of country, you don’t need to go away. Just enjoy the water festival. Water festival represents washing away of previous years’ bad luck and sins. People release fish and birds as acts of merits. Loads and loads of fun can be found out in this festival throughout a-four-days-festival. Plus you can participate in doing good deeds on a New Year Day of Myanmar. Shwedagon Pagoda is the place you should not miss to visit, but over crowded!
Don’t you want to play water and don’t want to go crazy? Fine, there are different activities which keep you cool. Go to monasteries and pagodas where you are welcome to enjoy food or to keep Sabbath if you wish. Feel free to volunteer of making Thingyan food and share around areas. You will easily find people to make company. You are not only to throw water but to find out more enjoyable activities during festival. Some people go wild and crazy by playing water whereas some young people do good deeds such as shampooing the hair and cutting nails of elderly. It is prominent to see how Myanmar people are warm and generous in festival times, not only in Thingyan but other religious festivals also. They donate food every corner of roads or pandals regardless of the rich and the poor.
Lighting Festival in Thadingyut
People on earth welcome Buddha and his followers by decorating homes and streets with lanterns and candles throughout three nights of festival. The full moon day is in the middle of three days. Thadingyut (October) is the seventh month of Myanmar Calendar. It’s the time Buddha descends from the heaven after teaching His Law to his mother in the heaven. It marks the end of Buddhist Lent, too. While Buddhist is giving his law in the heaven, people down on earth keep Sabbath for the whole three months. It’s a great pleasure to see that pagodas, temples, buildings, houses and streets are beautifully lit up with candles and electric lights. It is held countrywide. People, the young and the old, wander here and there enjoying beautiful nights. Some go to pagodas to pay special homage whereas some play with fireworks and hot air balloons in group.
Festivals in Tazaungmone
The stormy weather of raining season says good bye and lets the sky beautiful with twinkling stars. Tazaungmone (November) is a month of festivals such as lighting festival, Offering robes festival and robe weaving contest.
Robe weaving contest
It is special about robe weaving contest rather than lighting. Buddha’s mother could weave the robe for Buddha in a single night before dawn. Then it becomes a religious festival to us. This festival of contest shows the essence of Myanmar Culture as well. You will see competitions are held in several famous pagodas. Competitors must complete weaving a robe before dawn to donate Buddha. On full moon day of Tazaungmone, you can see that ladies in sweat weave robe enthusiastically to be able to finish before dawn in pagoda compounds. There can be five to ten teams of six including a leader. Members, who come from different regions of country, are in good stamina, full energy and roaring spirit to fight against other teams. You can see the strength of teamwork in this contest. Make sure you come and applaud their effort after taking part lighting festival at the same pagoda compound. In some pagodas, 9000 candles are lit as a donation to Buddha on this full moon day. It’s an awesome and peaceful moment to see a great number of small lights together under the full moon sky.
Special vege salad
At this auspicious night, stars shine bright up in the sky. At midnight we eat vegetable salad called “Mezali phoo thote”. We believe that natural leaves and herbs have special potency on full moon night and we will be free from diseases as we eat it. We prepare it before midnight and share it with friends as soon as the clock’s hands strike 12am. You should not miss it while you are in Myanmar in Tazaungmone. That is one of the valuable customs of Myanmar. There’s no point to lose a penny even if you don’t believe in that custom. At least you can enjoy a company and a delicious vege salad!
Plus there is a traditional game called “Thief night”. Welcome you to join get wild with us. It’s believed that thief planet dominates that night. Young people try to steal things outside houses and put them in other not-belonging-places at the night after full moon day. You worry if owners saw you? Nobody will send you to police station. Just make sure you run at your highest pace! You will taste different cultures of different festivals in one shot in Tazaungmone. You may go crazy and wild if you want. And also cheer up the competitors at weaving robe.
Robe offering to monks (Kahtain)
Tazaungmone is also the time for offering robes to monks. It’s a heart-warming festival of a year. Adult people collect or organize the offering of gifts, cash or things in need for monks, especially robes. In roadsides, markets or entrance of offices, you will see wooden triangle-shaped stands hanging lots of gifts and cash. Before Thadingyut, monks are banned to travel overnights for about three months. Now they can travel to see their parents or whoever they want. So this is the time they need new robes. People of the old and the young carry those stands of donations on vehicles or in hands by walking to nearby monasteries. There’s no restriction of monasteries to get offered. Almost all monasteries get donated since people prefer to send donations to nearby ones. People sing and dance along the way to monasteries despite of hot shinny sun in the afternoon. Monasteries are informed in advance and prepared with food to donate those who carry stands of offerings. Then donation ceremony is held at monastery.
Well. You see why Myanmar is famous for its wonderful festivals. You don’t need to go to bar or clubs to make company or friends. Please pay a visit to Myanmar any time of the year, you cannot miss a festival at least.