Thingyan Water festival in Myanmar

The Thingyan Festival (Water festival)

Festivals in Myanmar

Myanmar, with its 130 or so ethnic groups, is a land of never ending festivities. You will definitely witness one or two festivals regardless of the month in which you come as there are celebrations a plenty throughout the year.

The Thingyan Festival (Water festival) is just before the Myanmar New Year, people throw water on each others, great fun!



List of festivals in Myanmar

Myanmar Festivals in January

1. Ananda Pagoda Temple

Where: Bagan

Duration: 15 days (23rd-29th)

This ancient festival which dates back to the Bagan period is celebrated by Buddhists who flock to the Ananda pagoda traveling from near and far and make camp around it till the festival comes to an end. By being a part of this you will get to witness the colorful traditional life style of Burmese people.


2. Naga New Year Festival

Where: Either Lathe or Layshi, Savgaing Region

Duration: 3 days ( 12th to 16th)

It is a gathering of different clans and ethnic groups with their own cultural shows to welcome the New Year.


Myanmar Festivals in February

1. Mann Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival

Where: Shwe Settaw, Megwe Region, Myanmar(Central)

Duration: 11 days

This festival is centered around two temples which enshrine Buddha’s footprints. Bamboo huts are put up on the sides of the streets leading to the temple as shelter for the devotees who travel from faraway places to take part in this festival.


2. Kyaik Khauk Pagoda Festival

Where: Thanlyin, near Yangon

Duration: 8 days

This is a festival celebrated with great intensity in Yangon involving evening drama shows, Anyeint (theater) performances and movies shown all night to entertain the crowd.


3. Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Where: Mandalay

Duration: 2 days (24th -25th)

This is centered on an image of Buddha (Maha Muni) which is said to have been created in front of Buddha, himself. During the festival, the cold month of February is warmed with the many bonfires lit by devotees to cook alms (food) for Monks consisting of sticky rice, coconut, sesame and ginger.


4. Bon fire Ceremony

Where: Pyay

Duration: 2 days (24th-25th)

In the early morning, worshipers burn plants emitting no smoke, at the four cardinal points on the platform of the pagoda. Then they pilgrimage to Pho U mountaintop (they believe the lord Buddha visited this place) for further religious activity.


5. Full Moon Festival

Where: Across the country

Duration: 1 day (25th)

This can be compared to thanks giving day celebrated in the west as it is held after harvesting by preparing sweetmeat (Htamane-glutinous rice freckle of coconut, sesame seeds, peanuts, ginger and oil), other Burmese delicacies and visiting relatives and neighbors.


6. Wa, Lisu, Lahu New Year Festival

Where: Kyaing Tong

Duration: 2 days (1st -2nd)

A colorful festival filled with dancing, singing and many more which falls on the same day as the Chinese New Year.


7. Zeedaw Nat Festival

Where: Monywar

Duration: 6 days (22nd -28th)

This festival of spirits is held at Zeedaw village on the banks of Chindwin River.


Myanmar Festivals in March

1. Shwemyitsu Pagoda Festival

Where: Inn dawgyi

Duration: 7 days (21st -28th)

This Kachin Buddhist festival is held at the Shwemyitsu Paoda.The water that surrounds the pagoda submerges during the summer allowing pilgrims to use the footpath leading to the pagoda.


2. Pindaya Cave Festival

Where:Pindaya, Shan State

Duration: 7 days (21st -28th)

A pagoda festival which is celebrated by various groups of ethnic minorities.


3. Shwedagone Pagoda Festival


Duration: 7 days (21st -28th)

Since Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most revered and popular Pagodas, its festival witnesses a large gathering of pilgrims from across the country. A competition is held to weave holy robes using traditional looms as offerings to the four Buddha images resting at the four corners of the pagoda.The sight of numerous monks coming in boats to receive food and offerings and the calming sound of monks reciting the Holy scripture 24 hours throughout the duration of the festival give this the ethereal effect that most visitors find hard to forget.


4. Kekku Pagoda Festival


Duration: 7 days (21st -28th)

Singing competitions and Pa O Theatrical performances are the highlights of the event.


5. Bawgyo Image Festival

Where: Tibaw, Shan State

Duration: 23rd- 26th

Locals of the Shan State and outsiders engage in trading merchandise while the crowds are entertained with boat races held on Dottawadi River.


6. Full Moon Day of Tabaung

Where: All over the country

Duration: 25th - 26th

This being the last month of Myanmar lunar calendar and the most colorful month of the year, many Pagoda Festivals are in full swing everywhere. Visitors get to observe the deep religious devotion and the creative and fun loving nature of the Burmese during this festival.


7. Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival

Where: Bago

Duration: 7 days (30th March - 6th April)

You can enjoy a good round of Theatrical performances, contests, dancing and music at this festival.


8. Novitiation Ceremony

Where: Throughout the country

Duration: 2 days (summer holidays (March and April before the water festival)

Unique to Burmese, this ceremony shows how deep rooted Buddhism is in the hearts of Burmese.It showcases Burmese parents letting their sons follow the footsteps of Buddha, by making them Buddhist novices for a short period to learn the teachings of Buddha that would help them build their lives with harmony and wisdom as lay adults later on. The boys, dressed up as princes parade around pagodas before temporarily taking up the robes.


9. Full Moon Day of Tabaung or Tagu

Where: Sri Angala Eswari Munieswar Swamy Temple, Pelikha Village, Yangon.

Duration: 10 Days (March /April)

This is the main religious festival of Hindus in Myanmar, where rituals like fire walking attracts many participants and spectators from across and outside the country. Once they cross the fire, the devotees have to wade through a pit filled with goat’s milk after which they rub their feet with turmeric.


Myanmar Festivals in April

1. Bo Min Khaung Memorial

Where: Mt.Popa

Duration: 4 days (22st - 26th)

A great personality by the name of Bo Min Khaung is remembered on this day for his higher attainment through meditation.


2. Full moon Day of Tagu

Where: All over the country

Duration: 1 day (24th - 25th)

April being the first month of the lunar calendar, full moon festivals are held with extra vigor and color to welcome the New Year.


3. Thingyan Festival (Water festival)

Where: all over the country

Duration: 4 days (13th - 16th)

This festival, celebrated for four days during the second week of April marks the beginning of the Myanmar New Year and the end of the old Year. Both young and old alike gather together to sing and dance and especially to shoot and throw water at anyone and everyone coming their way.Decorated floats and water throwing Pandals are seen everywhere including the more remote areas. If you are someone ready for merry making and getting soaked this is a festival you should not miss.


4. New Year Day

Where: All over the country

Duration: 1 day (17th April)

Burmese celebrate the New Year by engaging in meritorious deeds like giving alms to monks and the poor, feeding and releasing animals, paying their respect to elders etc…


Myanmar Festivals in May

1. Shithoung Pagoda Festival

Where: Mrauk U

Duration: 7 days (17th - 24th)

Traditional wrestling competitions, boat races in the river, dummy boat races on land and water splashing in Mrauk U canal are some of the highlights of this festival.


2. Kason Festival

Where: all over the country

Duration: 1 day (23rd - 24th)

On this Buddhist festive day pilgrims parade in procession to the pagoda, carrying pots of water and oil lamps and candles to be lit at the foot of the Pagoda. By watering the sacred Bo tree the pilgrims honour the tree under which the Budda’s birth, enlightenment and passing away took place.


3. Taung Yoe Festival

Where: Pindaya Cave, Shan State

Duration: 1 day (23rd - 24th)

The tribal population in this part of Burma makes a torch light procession in the night to pay homage to the statues in the Pindaya Cave.


4. Pa-Oh Rocket Festival

Where: Taunggyi

Duration: 1 day (23rd - 24th)

Groups of young and old Burmese proudly parade carrying locally made sky rockets containing gun powder which are launched in competition while young girls and boys tease each other using small mirrors. This festival is celebrated mostly by the Pa-Oh ethnic group.


5. Wat Zom Kum Rice Offering Ceremony

Where: Kyaing Tong

Duration: 1 day (21st - 22nd)

Danu youth who are single, throw lablab beans at one another, especially at the ones that he/she favours as a way of showing their love and affection.


Myanmar Festivals in June

1. Buddhist Recitation

Where: Kaba Aye hillock, Yangon

Duration: 1 day (22nd - 23rd)

This religious ceremony takes place at Kaba Aye hillock where five parts of the Nikaya are recited by both monks and nuns, similar recitations held in other parts of the country.


2. Mt. Popa Nat Spirit Festival

Where: Mt. Popa

Duration: 1 day (22nd - 23rd)

The festival of spirits held at the top of the mountain is for those of you energetic climbers (777 steps to climb) who will be fortunate enough to witness 'a never seen before sight’ once you reach the peak.


Myanmar Festivals in July

1. Wicker ball ceremony (Chinlone Festival)

Where: Mahamuni, Mandalay

Duration: approximately one month (8rd July - 6th August)

In par with a 70 year and running tradition, wicker ball players from all over the country take part in this exciting contest. (Chinlone matches)


2. Waso Full Moon Festival

Where: all over the country

Duration: 1 day (21st - 22nd)

On this day Buddha’s preaching of the first sermon is commemorated and monks are offered new robes for their use during the wet season. This is the start of the Buddhist lent where monks confine themselves to their monasteries for 3 months in order to meditate during the monsoon season.


Myanmar Festivals in August

1. Taung Byone Nat Pwe

Where: Madayar, Mandalay

Duration: 6 days (15th - 21st)

This traditional festival is held to pay homage to Nat spirits who are believed to have the power to grant human wishes and the power to bestow good will, prosperity and progress upon the living while taking away ill-fate and danger. Though spirit worshiping is rare in Burma, you can witness tens and thousands of people getting together to celebrate this festival.


2. Kyaungdawyar Pagoda Festival

Where: Min Bu, Magway

Duration: 2 months (25th August - 24th November)

During this “fish feeding festival”, people gather at the Pagoda to feed the shawls of fish that make their appearance only during this period, feeding the belief of locals that the fish come annually to pay homage to the Pagoda.


3. Yadana Gu Nat festival

Where: Amapura, Mandalay

Duration: 8 days (29th August - 4th September)

This festival pays homage to the mother of two lords called Medaw and Mewanna. She is known as the Goddess of Popa, (a powerful spirit who protects women) and her main shrine can be seen at Popa crest, near Bagan.


Myanmar Festivals in September

1. Bo Bo Gyi Nat Festival

Where:Taungthaman Inn, Mandalay

Duration: 15 days (September 22nd - 4th October)

During the ceremony pilgrims throw packets of tea leaves at one another and if you are hit you have to make the pilgrimage again next year for sure.


2. Manuha Pagoda Festival

Where: Myinkaba village, Bagan, Mandalay Region

Duration: 1/2 days (30th September)

The first day starts with a parade of pretty girls carrying fruits and cakes to offer at the Pagoda. This is followed by the evening parade of young men competing against one another with their huge paper dummies (representing spirits) of animals, celestials and heroes. The celebrations come to an end with Singing & dancing competitions held at night.


Myanmar Festivals in October

1. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

Where: Inle Lake

Duration: 5th - 22nd October

This festival held with pageantry and color has two highlighting events. The first of these is the ceremony where four Buddha images are ceremoniously tugged clockwise around the lake on top of a nicely decorated royal barge with the help of leg-rowing boats. This parade stops at each village on its way for the villagers to pay homage to the Royal Barge. This ceremony is followed by the most thrilling event of the festival; “the Shan traditional boat races" where both men and women adorned in their traditional national costumes compete against one another with much viguor and enthusiasm.


2. Mya Tha Lun Pagoda Festival

Where: Magwe

Duration: approximately 1 month (15th October - 2nd November)

The major events include lighting 9000 candles, offering alms to 1700 monks in the morning and Buddhist chanting. You shouldn’t miss the mesmerizing beauty of the Pagoda by the River bank.


3. Thadingyut Light Festival

Where: throughout Myanmar

Duration: 1 day (18th - 19th)

This festival marks the end of the 3 months of Buddhist lent with illuminated Pagodas, houses, Public buildings and monuments. It not only takes you on a fun filled treasure horde of activities, it also gives you a chance to pay homage and ask for forgiveness (for any non-meritorious deed you committed throughout the year) from monks, teachers, parents and other elders.


4. Dummy Elephant Festival

Where: Kyauk Se, Mandalay

Duration: 1 day (18th - 19th)

Life size yet light elephant figures are made of bamboo and paper where men hide inside the elephant figures and dance (to the sound of drums and dobat)around the town circling the Shwethalyaung Pagoda three times in order to pay homage to it.


Myanmar Festivals in November

1. Poewintaung Ceremony

Where: Monywar

Duration: 6 days (7th – 12th)

This is the only local market where leaves, roots, herbs and other medicinal plants are sold on a large scale.


2. Balloons Flying Festival


Duration: 5 days (12th - 17th)

This hot air Balloon festival, also called the Lu Ping (meaning eliminating evil through giving alms and offerings to monks) festival is mainly celebrated by the Pa O ethnic community where both locals and outsiders equally enjoy fireworks and rocket launching competitions as well as hot air balloon competitions. In fact, the most thrilling event is the hot air balloon contest where participants make day balloons in the shape of Pagodas and animals like elephants, dragons or ducks whereas the night sky is illuminated with balloons in the forms of rugby balls and paper balls with lanterns hanging around their sides.


3. Tazaungdaing Festival

Where: throughout Myanmar

Duration: 1 day (16th - 17th)

This festival celebrates the offering of new robes and alms to monks on the eve of full moon day in October or November at monasteries throughout the country. Locals start getting ready for this festival at least a month in advance by buying soap, robes, slippers and washcloths for monks and making gifts of money by folding new notes of money in the shape of peacocks, lotus flowers and pigeons. Then a parade of pandals made of bamboo and adorned with these carefully prepared gifts proceeds to the Pagodas and monasteries. At night the whole country dances in the glow of the numerously illuminated and decorated homes and offices while the sky takes on an ethereal beauty due to the flying hot air balloons and cracking fireworks. The festivities end with the offering of meals and alms to the monks the following morning.


4. Rob Weaving Contest

Where: throughout Myanmar

Duration: 1 day (16th - 17th)

On the eve of the full moon, hundreds of women gather at Pagodas across the country to take part in the robe weaving competition where the best and the most flawless robe woven overnight is chosen and offered to the statues of Buddha in the Pagoda at the crack of dawn.


5. Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival

Where: Golden Rock, Mon state

Duration: 1 day (16th - 17th)

This festival is held as a continuation of the robe offering festival (Kathein) at the famous golden rock which is barely and surprisingly hanging on top of the cliff in Mon state. The highlight of the night is the lighting of 9999 candles at midnight in the Pagoda premises. This is followed by the event of serving visitors with a mixed salad of maezali buds believed to hold a powerful magical quality which will be transferred to the person consuming it at this time of the festival.


6. Kaung Mudaw Festival

Where: Sagaing

Duration: 1 Day (16th - 17th)

Held as a continuation of the robe offering ceremony, this place is the best to watch Myanmar puppet shows in the midst of pilgrims and holiday goers in ox carts.


Myanmar Festivals in December

1. New Rice Harvest Festival

Where: Kyaing Tong

Duration: 3 days (1st - 3rd)

Ann hill tribe celebrates their fertility festival with group dancing, drinking and over all merry making.


2. Kachin New Year Celebration

Where: Kyaing Tong

Duration: 6 days (25th - 31st)

The Kachin ethnic group celebrates New Year by holding cultural events unique to their tribe and area.

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