FESTIVALS IN MYANMAR
Myanmar celebrates many festivals throughout the year and, fortunately for tourists, there are many options to choose from year-round. The exact dates of the festivals are calculated according to the Myanmar lunar calendar. Pagoda festivals are similar to country fairs, while nat (spirit) ceremonies are accompanied by plenty of music, dancing and eating. Major festivals include Thingyan Water and New Year Festival held every April.
MANUHA PAGODA FESTIVAL
YADANA GU NAT FESTIVAL
TAUNGBYONE NAT FESTIVAL
LAWKANANDA PAGODA FESTIVAL
The Tazaungdaing Festival, also known as the Hot Air Balloon Festival, takes place in southern Shan State over a period of three days. Held every November and arguably the most spectacular event of the year, this festival marks the end of the rainy season and hosts thousands of tourists and pilgrims alike to enjoy the amateur and expert balloon competitions and gaze at the illuminating paper balloons floating up into the night sky.
ANANDA PAGODA FESTIVAL
Considered to be one of the most famous pagoda festivals in Bagan, the Ananda Pagoda Festival celebrates a beautiful and culturally significant destination in Myanmar. This festival is held each January and offers traditional entertainment and food, games, markets selling artisan crafts, and sermons given by monks. If you’re looking for a festival to enjoy traditional, local life in Bagan, this lively festival is perfect for you.
The Salone Festival celebrates the seafaring Salone people, also known as the Moken, that live in the Myeik Archipelago along Myanmar’s southern coastline. The Salone are an isolated group, many of whom live in boats during the dry season and uphold traditions by depending on the sea to sustain themselves and continuing the same fishing practices used by generations before them.
This February celebration promotes tourism with respect to the Salone people, who inhabit the Myeik Archipelago islands and engage in agricultural land practices during monsoon season. Visitors are offered a glimpse into a unique culture and are invited to observe spiritual dances, folk singing and traditional Salone feasts.
KAKKU PAGODA FESTIVAL
Located in Southern Shan State near Inle Lake, the Kakku Pagoda Festival is a three-day yearly harvest celebration in February or March and pays homage to the thousands of pagodas nestled on a hill overlooking the Hopon Valley. During the festival, a market selling all sorts of produce, games, and crafts is set up, and the Pa’O tribe that lives in the hills near the pagodas perform ancient traditional song and dance. This festival provides travelers with a look into Myanmar’s centuries-old traditions. If you would like to participate authentically, take note that the villagers visit the pagodas on the full-moon day at dawn.
FULL MOON DAY OF WASO
The Waso Moon Festival is another celebration that takes place all over Myanmar in July. The month of Waso kicks off Buddhist Lent, which corresponds with the country’s three-month rainy season. This festival signifies the path of Siddhartha on his journey to become Buddha and honors present monks observing lent. Monks use this time of restriction to meditate and devote more energy to the Buddha’s teachings. There is a ceremony held for the monks so that people may offer food and robes for the monks’ use during their months spent during lent.
Water Festival, or ‘Thingyan’ as it is called in Myanmar, marks the Burmese New Year and falls around mid-April, at the end of the dry season. Lasting five days, this Buddhist festival leads to the New Year, which is the most important holiday in Myanmar. Most businesses shut down to allow employees to take time off and enjoy the festivities.
The main activity during Thingyan is big water fights, and stations (called pandles) are set up, often sponsored by companies, and water is sprayed on everyone from all directions. While this water dousing is done all in good fun, it does have symbolic meaning. To the Myanmar people, the water has the power to cleanse the wrongdoings of the past year and to help everyone start this new year off fresh and anew.