Myanmar is a land of festivals. There is a festival for each month of the year. Although some of them are large and nationwide, some are small and local scale, they all symbolize the vibrant life and rich culture of Myanmar. Festivals are for merry-making, for preserving the traditions, for religious observance, for competition, and for commerce.
1.New Year Festival of the Kachin (Manaw)
Time: Usually 1st week of January
Location: Myitkyina, Kachin State
Meaning: Originally, festival of the Kachin is the celebration of the New Year.
The Kachin, one of the main ethnic groups of Myanmar celebrate their new year festival with a lot of people both local Kachin and abroad Kachin from another country in the world back to Myanmar on this occasion to meet and dance each other in the festival. The performances of Manaw dance in the festival derived from worship rituals to the gods from the ancient period. The outstanding feature of the festival is the traditional Manaw poles, decorated in colorful Kachin motifs and placed in the middle of the festival ground. Participants in the festival wear their best traditional costume and dance around the erected Manaw poles, quite similar to the totem poles of North American Indians.
2.New Year Festival of the Naga
Time: Usually 2nd Week of January
Duration: 3 days
Location: Lahe and Layshi, Sagaing
Meanings: The meaning of the festival is anticipatory of good health, wealth, happiness, good climate and good crops for the coming New Year.
New Year Festival of the Naga is one of the few special festivals in Myanmar. The Naga tribes have more than 49 costumes and their own languages. The Naga often gather together to organize New Year in January. During the festival, hundreds of tourists and local people take part in activities and exchange gifts to each other. Participants will have chances to dance and be served with Naga traditional food and rice wine.
Dancer’s costumes are decorated with hornbill’s feathers and plumes, elephant tusks, tigers, bears and boar’s canines and paws, buffalo horns, shell, horse and goat’s tails. Moreover, they wear silver and bronze beads, bangles, bracelets, pendants and eardrops. Red, black and green are dominant colors of customs in the festival.
3.The ceremony of entering monasteries for boys
Time: Usually February & March (During School holidays)
Duration: 2 days
Location: Whole country
In Myanmar culture, the most important responsibility of parents to their son is for the child to be imbued with the teachings of the Buddha. Therefore, their son was put into the monastery in a short time as a little monk to learn about the Dharma. The ceremony of enter the monastery is a feature of Myanmar culture. The ceremony usually organized after final examination. The ceremony included a parade around the monasteries, temples or pagodas with the shaved head boy dressed as the monk.
4.Kakku Pagoda Festival
Time: Usually 3rd week of February
Duration: 3 days
Location: Kakku ancient temple, near Taunggyi, southern Shan State
Meaning: The festival is held to celebrate a bountiful harvest.
This is a large area with more than 3,000 temples and pagodas. The pagoda is believed to be built from the reign of Bagan, located on the hills overlooking the Hopon Valley. In full moon day of Tabaung month, the Pa O attends the festival with the most beautiful dress to show reverence. The best time to visit Kekku Pagoda Festival is early morning of full moon day, when the people come to offer to Buddha. The festival ends with the pilgrims making offerings of rice and other items for more than 1,000 monks in the pagoda. It is an occasion for people to donate alms to the pagoda as a religious merit-making activity. It is also the time for people to meet their friends, exchange news, gossips and trade. They get dressed in their traditional costumes. Some come in bullock carts while others arrive by more modern conveyances on the village tractor. During the festival, participants can enjoy ancient songs and dances performances of Pa’O tribes who in navy or black jacket and pants with a colorful head wrap.
5.Shwedagon Pagoda Festival
Time: Usually 1st week of March
Location: YangonDuration: about 1 week
Meaning: The festival is celebrated to show veneration to Buddha and his teaching.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most famous pagoda in Myanmar and attracts many pilgrims. During the festival, there are contests of woven saffron by traditional looms to offer Buddha statues at 4 corners of the pagoda. The monks chant all day without a break during the festival.
6.New Year Water Festival
Time: Usually 2nd week of April
Duration: 4 to 5 days
One of the most highlights in Myanmar is The New Year Water Festival (Thingyan) – the biggest festival in April. It is the most meaningful event of Burmese people nationwide. Water festival (also known as Thingyan in Burmese) is the most popular and largest festival in Myanmar. On this occasion, water-throwing or dousing others in music and dances. The water-throwing means washing the body and head out of evil and guilty in the past. On these auspicious days, people do good thing to start the New Year like going to pagodas and monasteries, offerings to monks, express respect to the parents, teachers and elders, making releasing ceremony. Burmese people are waiting for Thingyan festival with lots of fun and excitement.Location: Nationwide
Meaning: This festival marks the end of the dry season and the onset of the rainy season.
7.Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
Time: Usually 1st Week of October
Duration: 18 days
Location: Inle Lake, Shan State South
Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda is one of the famous temples in the region with 5 Buddha statues. Temple is located in the middle of the Inle Lake and is one of popular scenic spot of the lake. In the festival time, thousands of people living around the lake and the surrounding mountains will bring flowers and fruits packed on the lacquered trays to celebrate and offer to the pagoda. The sailing team of the famous fishing village will participate in the annual boat race with traditional one leg rowing. The festival is the time for pilgrims from all over the country come to this festival to pay homage to the four Buddha images and gain merit and enjoy the festive atmosphere of the event.
8.Balloon Festival, Taunggyi
Time: Usually 2nd Week of November
Duration: 7 days
Location: Taunggyi Region
The fireworks are in the form of rockets. There is always hot balloons competition day and night. Day balloons are usually in the form of Pagodas, and animals such as elephant, dragon or ducks while the night balloons usually in the shape of rugby ball, huge elongated paper balls with small lighted multicolored paper lanterns hung around their sides and balloons would sting along fireworks and fire sticks which are set off mid-air fireworks. Timetable of Balloon Festival in Taunggyi.