Festivals in Myanmar

Myanmar is a Land of Festivals : a festival for every month of the year. Most festivals are cultural and religious. Majority are nation-wide celebrated while a few are distinctly regional. The date of the festivals and special events usually fail on the full-moon day of the month.

Tagu (April)

1. Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda Festival
Date: 8th waxing to 5th waning of Tagu
Location: Bago
Significance: The most famous pagoda festival in Bago with the performance of classical theatre troupes at their best

2. Thingyan Festival and Myanmar New Year’s Day
Date: 2nd week of April usually 13th - 16h April and 17th April (Myanmar New Year Day)
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Marks the beginning of the Burmese New Year, the essence of this festival is to sanctify the defilements and cleansing the body and mind of evils of the past year by dousing each other with water. Youths go out for enjoyment while the elderly people do a lot of meritorious deeds to usher in the New Year such as keeping Sabbath, going to pagodas and monasteries, offering food and alms to monks, paying homage to parents, teachers and elders, setting free fish and cattle and so on. Thingyan is a distinctive festival which is always awaited with great joy and excitement by Myanmar people every year

Kason (May)

1. Banyan Tree Watering Festival
Date: 24th May
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Marks the Gautama’s Buddha enlightenment gained while meditating under Bodhi tree, pilgrims pour water on sacred banyan trees in pagoda compounds to keep them fresh in the summer heat of May

2. Animal Feeding Ceremony
Date: Full Moon day of Kason
Location: Kaba Aye Hillock
Significance: All kinds of animals are set free

3. Shinpyu Novitation Ceremonies
Date: During school holidays
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Young boys enter into monkhood. They dress as princes

Nayon (June)

1. Tipitaka Festival
Date: 16th - 23rd June, Full moon day of Nayon
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Student monks are examined on their knowledge of the Tipitaka religious texts, robes and food are offered to monks and nuns

2. Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival
Date: 8th waxing of Nayon, Full moon day of Waso
Location: Pakokku, Central Myanmar
Significance: The most important pagoda festival for all towns west of the Ayeyarwady with the performance of classical theatre troupes at their best and celebration of huge fair selling products from the region such as dried chilli, homespun baskets and tobacco

Waso (July)

1. Robe Offering Festival, Dhamma Sekya Day
Date: 22nd July, Full moon day of Waso
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Marks the beginning of the Buddhist lent (Vassa); anniversary of Buddha’s first sermon on the Four Noble Truths, sermons and verses are recited, donation of monk robes and shinpyu ceremonies

2. Waso Full Moon Festival
Date: 22nd July
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Robes are offered to monks and nuns

3. Chin Lone (Cane Ball) Festival
Date: After full moon day of Waso
Location: Aung San, Thuwunna and Kyaikkasan Stadiums (Yangon), Mahamuni Pagoda compound (Mandalay)
Significance: Cane ball players from all over the country come over to participate in several ways of playing Chin Lone together with local/folk music being played along

Wagaung (August)

1. Taung Byone Nat Festival
Date: 8th waxing to full moon day of Wagaung
Location: Taung Byone village near Mandalay
Significance: Major gathering spot for spiritual mediums with offerings and dances and constant arrival of pilgrims

Tawthalin (September)
1. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
Date: 1st waxing to 3rd waning day of Thadingyut
Location: Inle Lake, Southern Shan State
Significance: Golden Karaweik barge pulled by long boats managed by leg-rowers by hundreds of people turning out en masse to pay obeisance to Buddha Image, thousands of people from communities around the lake and villages in the surrounding mountains carry fruits and flowers on lacquer trays in their own boats and pay homage as the holy barge passes

2. Manuha Pagoda Festival
Date: A day before the full moon day of Tawthalin
Location: Myinkaba Village, Bagan
Significance: Pretty village girls dressed in their best parade with trays of fruits and cakes to offer at the pagoda while young men parade with larger-than-life paper-made figures of heroes, celestials and animals

Thadingyut (October)

1. Festival of Lights
Date: 18th - 20th October, a day before the full moon day of Thadingyut, full moon day and one day afterwards
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Marks the end of the Buddhist lent when the Buddha returned to earth after preaching (Vassa) at night and devotees greeted him with lamps and lanterns and people decorate pagodas, houses, streets with candles and coloured lanterns to symbolize this event

2. Floating Alms Bowl
Date: 19th October
Location: Botahtaung Pagoda
Significance: Alms bowls are floated on rivers

3. Dancing Elephant Festival
Date: A day before the full moon day of Thadingyut and the full moon day
Location: Kyaukse, Southeast of Mandalay
Significance: Colourfully decorated elephant figure made of cloth and bamboo with two men inside compete in dance competitions and the elephant with the best dance performance and behaviours wins the competition

4. Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda Festival
Date: Begins a day before the full moon day of Thadingyut
Location: Mandalay
Significance: Exciting festival with sales fair where all kinds of goods are sold

5. Kaunghmudaw Pagoda Festival
Date: Around full moon day of Thadingyut
Location: Sagaing
Significance: Camping of caravan of bullock-carts carrying their village products such as hand-woven cotton clothes and cane mats, etc., to sell them at the festival in the pagoda compound

6. Shwe Kyin Light Festival
Date: 20th October, after the full moon day of Thadingyut
Location: Shwe Kyin River, Bago
Significance: Daytime rowing races as well as competitive synchronized paddling exhibitions by separate teams of women and men and launching hundreds of lit candles onto the water

Tazaungmone (November)

1. Tazaungmone Full Moon Festival (Khahtein Ceremony)
Date: Full moon day of Tazaungmone
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Offering of new robes and other such as slippers, umbrellas, alms bowls, food, towels, soap and other necessities to the monks and also cash offerings for monasteries are collected and displayed on wooden frames built in the shape of a tree

2. Hot Air Balloon Festival (Taunggyi Tazaungdaing Festival)
Date: Full moon day of Tazaungmone
Location: Taunggyi, southern Shan State
Significance: Most spectacular event of the year where thousands of local pilgrims and international tourist choose to visit there, especially to watch scores of giant paper animals being inflated and floated off into the sky and the competitions run during the day and at night, hot air balloons maybe in the shape of elephant, ox, horse, water buffalo, bird, pig, fish, owl and parrot

3. All Night Robe Weaving Contests
Date: Begins in evening before the full moon day of Tazaungmone
Location: Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
Significance: Competition among teams of women to finish weaving special saffron-coloured robes called “Ma Tho Thin Gan” during the night to offer to Buddha images the next day at dawn followed by prize giving ceremony to the winners

4. Shwezigon Pagoda Festival
Date: Full moon day of Tazaungmone
Location: Nyaung U, Bagan
Significance: Offering of filled alms bowl to a thousand and more monks and novices, lacquer ware, glazed pots and hand woven cotton blankets are sold by villagers at this great country fair

5. Phowintaung Pagoda Festival
Date: A day before full moon day of Tazaungmone
Location: Monywa, Sagaing
Significance: Like other pagoda festivals with usual entertainment with selling of Myanmar thanaka, sandalwood and woven textiles (cotton blankets and longyis mainly)

6. Shwesandaw (Pyay) Pagoda Festival
Date: Full moon day of Tazaungmone
Location: Pyay, Bago
Significance: One of Myanmar’s biggest Buddhist pilgrimage sites and most visited festivals for pilgrims all over the country and the sacred tooth hall which contains a Buddha tooth relic is opened for devotees during the festival

7. 9000 Lighting of Candles
Date: 17th November
Location: Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda
Significance: 9000 lights are lit

8. Mae Lamu Pagoda Festival
Date: 17th – 25th November
Location: North Okkalapa, Yangon
Significance: Reciting the Holy Scriptures 24 hours continuously throughout the festivals by monks, offering provisions and articles to monks, celebrating festivities and performing with evening entertainments such as stage shows and movies

Nadaw (December)

1. Nadaw Full Moon Day
Date: 17th December
Location: Nationwide
Significance: The Nats are offered

Pyatho (January)
1. Ananda Pagoda Festival
Date: Full moon of Pyatho to 15th waning of Pyatho
Location: Bagan
Significance: One of the most famous pagoda festivals in Bagan where it is one of the Asia’s most amazing and richest archaeological sites, many villagers around Bagan came to the festival in bullock-carts and in their traditional way, so this is where visitors can definitely enjoy the traditional lifestyle of the locals of Bagan

2. Kachin Manaw Festival (Kachin New Year Festival)
Date: Usually around first week of January
Location: Myitkyina, Kachin State
Significance: The Kachins being one of the major races of Myanmar, take great part in this festival and even Kachins living abroad come back to meet and dance at this special event as part of the Nat or spirit worship of the past

3. Naga New Year Festival
Date: Usually January 14 to 16
Location: Either Lathe or Layshi, Sagaing Region
Significance: Traditional dance with bonfires, competition of traditional sports and gathering of more than 49 different clans with their own distinctive individual exotic dresses and costumes, weaving styles, bodies and facial tattoos, head-dresses or hats and other individualized ornaments to celebrate with rice wine roasted meat and tribal dances performed with loud beating of drums to their new year

Tabodwe (February)

1. Mann Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival
Date: Begins on 5th waxing of Tabodwe
Location: Magway, Central Myanmar
Significance: Two pagodas which enshrine footprints of the Buddha which is located on the bank of Mann Creek where bamboo calbins are erected every year for local to enjoy cool swim during the heat of summer

2. Kyaik Khauk Pagoda Festival
Date: 18th - 25th February, 8th waxing to full moon day of Tabodwe
Location: Thanlyin, near Yangon
Significance: One of the famous pagoda festivals around Yangon with entertainments and drama shown in the open air the whole night

3. Maha Muni Pagoda Festival
Date: 14th waxing and full moon day of Tabodwe
Significance: Maha Muni Buddha image is highly venerated as it is made in front of Buddha himself and thus its face if most revered, the image is completely covered with 15 cm thick gold, as February being the coldest month in Myanmar, there is bonfires party with cooking of huge pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut and sesame to offer to monks

4. Htamane (Glutinous Rice Festival)
Date: 25th February, Full moon day of Tabodwe
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Competition held between teams of men for donation of glutinous rice to the Great Lord Buddha in early morning on Full Moon Day

5. Ko Gyi Kyaw Spirit Festival
Date: 3rd waxing to 10th waxing of Tabaung
Location: Pakhan, Yayzagyo Township
Significance: Enjoyable to see the singing and dancing of the worshippers to Ko Gyi Kyaw; a happy spirit

6. Rice Harvesting Festival
Significance: Celebration of rice harvest
Event: Cooking of htamane, sticky glutinous rice made with sesame seeds, peanuts and shredded ginger and coconut over open fires and stirred with big wooden paddles until they become a thick mall, after then the rice is wrapped in small banana-leaf parcels and distributed among all the members of the community

7. Novitiation Ceremony
Date: During the months of Tabodwe and Tabaung (school holidays, mostly in summer holidays in March and April before the water festival)
Location: Nationwide
Significance: Unique characteristics in Myanmar that involves a parade around the pagodas with boys all dressed up as princes, it is assumed as the most important duty that parents owe to their son by letting him go forth and embrace the legacy of the Buddha join the Sangha as novice and become immersed in the teachings of Buddha at least for a short while

8. Shwe Nattaung Pagoda Festival
Date: 8th waxing to full moon day of Tabaung
Location: Shwe Taung, Bago
Significance: The pagoda said to be built in the Pyu period and it is one of the largest pagoda festivals in this part and many local pilgrims arrive by bullock-carts from the surrounding villages

9. Maw Tin Zun Pagoda Festival
Date: 8th waxing to full moon day of Tabaung
Location: Laputta Township, Southwest Coast of Myanmar
Significance: Only seaside Pagoda Festival that attracts many people

10. Inn Daw Gyi Shwe Myitzu Pagoda Festival
Date: 8th waxing to full moon day of Tabaung
Location: Laputta Township, Southwest Coast of Myanmar
Significance: Only seaside Pagoda Festival which attracts many people and can be accessed from Yangon by a pleasant boat ride to Pathein

11. Bawgyo Pagoda Festival
Date: 10th waxing to full moon day of Tabaung
Location: Thibaw Township, Southern Shan State
Significance: Famous historic pagoda festival in Shan State of Myanmar, visitors can observe Shan tradition, custom and culture, which are slightly different from the tradition of the middle part of Myanmar

\Tabaung (March)
1. Shwedagon Pagoda Festival
Date: 17th March
Location: Yangon
Significance: One of the most visited festivals for pilgrims all over the country, commemorates the founding of the modern Myanmar army

2. Alaungdaw Khathapa Pagoda Festival
Date: Full moon day of Tabaung
Location: Alaungdaw Khathapa National Park, Sagaing
Significance: Lighting to the pagoda and National Cave, not only for just pilgrimage but also for observing the nature as it is one of the renowned ecotourism sites of Myanmar

3. Pindaya Shwe Oo Min Pagoda Festival
Date: 11th waxing to full moon day of Tabaung
Location: Pindaya, Southern Shan State
Significance: Pindaya Cave houses hundreds of Buddha Images, a joyous scene of thousands of devotees such as Shan, Pa O, Palaung, Taung Yoe, Intha, Danu groups residing around Pindaya come in a huge line of traditional bullock-carts and the people do their camping, cooking and rest for the night under the huge banyan trees during the festival

4. Kekku Pagoda Festival
Date: Begins on 14th waxing of Tabaung
Location: Kekku Ancient Pagoda Complex, near Taunggyi, Southern Shan State
Significance: Cluster of more than 3000 pagodas, Pa O people flock to the festival in their best costumes to pay homage to the pagoda on the full-moon day of Tabaung

5. Shwe Sar Yan Pagoda Festival
Date: Full moon day to 8 waning day of Tabaung
Location: Shwe Sar Yan Village, Patheingyi, Mandalay Region
Significance: Interesting festival as the main attractions of this festival are the folk toys woven out of dried palm fronds