Myanmar Festivals

JANUARY

Ananda Pagoda Festival – Bagan

4th  – 19th  January 2015: Full moon day of Pyatho. 
Location: Ananda Pagoda, Bagan.

The Ananda Pagoda Festival is the largest annual celebration throughout center and upper Myanmar. This 15 day event is as well a Buddhist Festival with ancient buddist customs and the annual alms giving time for this region as a lively harvest festival and a country fair.

Worth seeing is the huge procession of traditional bullock carts that brings people from around Bagan to the pagoda grounds. These villagers make camps for the whole time of the festival. The public is being entertained by famous local theatrical troupes. Stores are selling everything from foodstuff to agricultural products.
In the evening of Fullmoon Day of Pyatho the pilgrims make their donations to the monks, lined up in an immense number to reverently pass it to them.

Kachin Manaw Festival – Kachin State

10th January 2015
Location: Myitkyina, Kachin State

The Kachin Manaw Festival is one of the most ancient tribal celebrations of entire Southeast Asia, held by the Kachin People, who consist of several groups of hill tribes in the very north of Myanmar.
Manaw, traditionally being a Nat Festival, means reunion ceremony. Ritual dances, once used to celebrate victory or beg for good fortune, are now being performed by the tribal people in their beautiful traditional clothes around the Manaw Poles, a range of colorful decorated pillars.

Naga New Year – Chin state

14th – 15th January 2015
Location: Leshi, Chin State

Ancient New Year Festival of Naga tribal people, who live in the mountainous northwestern region of Myanmar, some of them still practicing animist ceremonies. Ritual dances and songs are being performed at the festival; you will have the opportunity to see the impressive traditional costumes that are nowadays only used during ceremonies and festivals.

FEBRUARY

Mahamuni Ceremonies – Mandalay

2nd – 3rd February 2015: 14th waxing day & 15th full moon day of Tabodwe
Location: Mandalay

The two day festival includes nonstop recitation of an ancient philosophical Buddhis text by monks, traditional performances, music and plays are being displayed in the evenings. Local people meet there to have fun. A wide range of local food is being sold during daytime.

MARCH

Pindaya Cave Festival – Pindaya

1st – 4th March 2015: 11th waxing day of Tabaung
Location: Pindaya, Shan State 

Typical Taung-yo pagoda festival with festival market and lots of performances. Different ethnic minority races can be seen, such as Danu, Pa-O, Palaung and Taung Yo.  The 3rd March is the busiest day at the festival.

Kakku Festival – Taunggyi

4th March 2015
Location: Taunggyi, Shan State.

Typical pagoda festival. The pagoda complex has a very unique look; it consists of thousands of Shan style thin and slender pagodas, build in a geometric pattern.
People from different ethnic minorities from the surrounding region, such as Palaung, Shan, Pa O, Lishaw and Dano take part in this annual event. They are dressed in their traditional outfits.

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival – Yangon

1st – 5th  March 2015: Full moon day of Tabaung
Location: Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

According to legends on the Full Moon Day of Tabaung the sacred hair relics of Buddha where enshrined inside the Shwedagon stupa.
People from all over Myanmar, dressed in their best, come make offerings of water, candles, incense and flowers at the country’s most important pagoda and to the hundreds of Buddha images there.

APRIL

Thingyan (Water) Festival

13th – 17th April 2015 
Location: Throughout the country

The biggest event in the festival calendar: Five days of festivities leading up to the Myanmar New Year on April 17th.
The religious festival is held on the eve of Myanmar New Year to cleanse the bad deeds of the previous year with water. Elder people take retreat in monasteries and pagoda precincts to gain merits. Young people go out to enjoy themselves in massive water fights.
Major water splashing events take place in Yangon and Mandalay.

MAY

Chinlone Festival ( Mahamuni Waso Festival) – Mandalay

18th May – 17th June 2015
Location: Mahamuni Paya,  Mandalay

Chinlone tournament held in Mandalay. It takes place in Mahamuni Pagoda compound almost a month for every day and night. Hundreds of teams of Chinlone players from all over the country come up to Mandalay to take part. Enjoy seeing several ways of playing Chinlone by either team or individual! Local  music is being played to entertain the audience.
Chinlone is an ancient sport, originated some 1500 years ago to the royal court of Myanmar. A team of 6 plays together in a small circle, using only their feet, knees, shoulders and heads, trying to not let the Chinlone, the small cane ball, touch the ground. There are more than 200 acrobatic moves, such as handstands, spinning kicks or backflips, used by the players to keep the Chinlone in the air in the most artistic and aesthetic way.

AUGUST

Shwe Kyun Pin Nat Pwe Mingun – Mingun

16th  – 18th  August 2015 : during the Myanmar month of Tabaung
Location: Mingun (near Mandalay)

After harvest time, hundreds of farmers, wearing colorful dresses, arrive with their beautifully decorated bullock carts at the Mya Thein Dan Pagoda. They build a big tent as temporary housing for the nat images. During these days the mediums perform Nat Dances in order to be granted a good harvest for the next season and to the delight of hundreds of spectators.
River vessels, big and small, plying the Ayeyarwaddy to pay respect.

Taung Byone Nat Festival – Matara, Mandalay

25th – 30st August 2015 : 2nd Waxing Day of Wargaung
Location: Matara, Mandalay Region

This festival is known as the major gathering spot for spiritual mediums.
Hundreds of mediums (Nat-Kadaw) and thousands of pilgrims come once a year to Taung Byone (where the statues of two brothers are placed in a shrine and there stands still the “Pagoda of Wishes” with the two missing stones). It is the most impressive Nat Festival in Myanmar. Offerings and dances, the inflow of merchants, the constant arrival of pilgrims and the intensive uses of loudspeakers continue day and night.

The festival is held in honour of  Byat Wi and Byat Ta, two Indian brothers, got extraordinary powers after they ate the body of a dead alchemist. Byat Wi, the older brother, lost his supernatural power, after he walked under a clothesline on which women’s skirts used in childbed had been hung. He was captured and died after his loved ones offered him a quid of betel and a cup of water. Byat Ta was killed by King Anawrahta’s magical lance, after he was again late to bring the fresh flowers from Mt. Popa for the Royal Audience, and thereupon his wife Popa Medaw also died from broken heart. 15 years later, the two sons of Byat Ta and Popa Medaw, which were adopted by King Anawratha, forgot to bring one brick each to build the “Pagoda of Wishes”. King Anawratha soon found out, who was responsible for this omission and gave the order to gently hit them with a fillet stick. As they were in the trap which the king’s son, Kyansittha, planned from beginning on, they were instead hardly hit with a bamboo stick and died.

SEPTEMBER

Yadana Gu Nat Festival – Amarapura, Mandalay

9th – 13th  September 2015 : 2nd Waxing Day of Wargaung
Location: Amarapura, Mandalay Region

Known as mother of Taung Byone Festival.
Most enjoyable because of the rowing boat trip to the site. The festival is held annually in honor of Mt. Popa. Medaw, Mewanna (Mother of the two Lords) who came back from Taung Byone Festival, halted on her way back to Mt. Popa at the Yadana Gu as her transit camp.

Manuha Pagoda Festival – Myinkaba, Bagan

28th  September 2015: full moon day of Tawthalin (Manuha Pagoda Festival)
Location: Myinkaba Village, Bagan

A two day Pagoda festival with thriving festival market and a parade of local people, carrying paper mache images of the Jataka Tales, the stories of Buddha’s incarnations.

OCTOBER

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival – Inle Lake

14th  – 31st  October 2015: starts 1st waning day of Thidingyut
Location: Inle Lake, Shan State.

This festival is the most important and largest Buddhist celebration at Inle Lake.
Watch the procession of leg-rowed boats, which are ceremoniously tugging four golden Buddha statues situated on a royal barge clockwise around Inle Lake. Throughout the event leg-rowed boat races are being held and you will come across them during the excursion on the lake. Hundreds of other vessels travel in the entourage in a general festive atmosphere. Thousands of people from around the Shan State attend this most holy of all Shan celebrations.

Dummy Elephant Festival – Kyauk Se, Mandalay

27th – 28th October 2015
Location: 
Kyauk Se

This unique and exotic elephant dance is held at Kyauk Se, a small town not far from Mandalay. A huge but light elephant figure is made with bamboo and paper. Men take their places inside the figure and dance around the town to the accompaniment of Dobat and Drums. The elephant dancers circle three times at the foot of the hill to pay homage to the Shwethalyaung Pagoda. It is a dance that requires precise rhythm and timing in order for the elephant dancers to maintain uniformity inside the elephant figure. Numerous life-size paper dummy elephants sing and dance to the accompaniment of music.

Thidingyut Festival (Festival of Lights)

27th  – 29th  October 2015: 14th waxing day of Thidingyut
Location: Throughout the country

To mark the end of the Buddhist Lent, and is also one of the most prominent festivals of the year. Pagodas, houses, public buildings, parks, and monuments are all illuminated and there are various kinds of activities for everyone to enjoy. Thadingyut is not only for joyous but also thanksgiving and paying homage to Buddhist monks, teachers, parents and elders, and asking pardon for whatever misdeeds might have committed.

NOVEMBER

Robe Weaving Contest – Yangon

25th  November 2015: 14th waxing day of Tazaunmon
Location: Shwedagon, Botataung, Kyaikkasan and elsewhere

Young women take part in competitions of weaving a robe for the Buddha statues, held on the platforms of the pagodas. They compete in making a robe that has to be finished flawlessly overnight and offer them at dawn to the images of Buddha around the Pagoda.

Tazaungdine Light Festival

26th November 2015
Location: Troughout the country

This festival marks the end of monsoon. Everywhere in the country candles are being lighted and fireworks are being set off. During the evening every electric light throughout the country is being switched off, replaced by candles to celebrate. Myanmar celebrates this night with various kinds of illuminations. The liveliest places are Yangon and Mandalay and Taunggyi, Shan State, see below.

Balloon Flying Festival – Taunggyi

21st  – 27th  November 2015: 10th waxing day of Tazaunmon
Location: Taunggyi, Shan State

This Taunggyi special Tazaungdine Festival, held in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State is locally known as the Lu Ping Festival, a festival of the Pa O tribal community. A hot air balloon competition takes place, consisting of a daytime and nighttime contests. Huge and skillfull made paper balloons in the shapes of animals or pagodas or, at night, of chandeliers with beautiful fireworks are floated up in the sky.

Shwezigon Festival – Bagan

26th  November – 11th  December 2015:  Full moon day of Tazaungmon
(The festival takes place over this whole period but the most important day is 26th November)
Location: Bagan

Shwezigone Pagoda Festival is one of the liveliest pagoda festivals in Central Myanmar, a mix between Buddhist ceremony, fair and country marketplace.
On full moon day candles and fireworks are being offered to the pagoda, carried in big processions and alms bowls are being offered to the monks of the nearby monasteries, what are nearly 600.
There are evening entertainments as well, such as Zats: (a variety of dances, songs, short and long plays) and  Anyeints (a performance of a few hours in which a number of “jokers” caricature current situations and or person strung together by a traditional dancer), popular movies are being shown in open air.

Kyaikhtio Pagoda Festival of Nine Thousands Lights (Golden Rock) – Mon State

28th October 2015: Full moon of Thidingyut, a 9 month long season
Location: Kyaikthio, Mon State
Kyaikthio Pagoda is the third most important Buddhist sacred site in Myanmar. Thousands of Buddhists come here to welcome the new year lighting 9999 candles.
The pagoda itself has just a small size but stands on top of a huge gold covered Granite boulder that balances on the edge of a summit ridge, defying gravity.

 

DECEMBER

Shwe Myat Mhan Pagoda Festival – Shwetaung near Pyay

19th – 26th December 2015
Location: Shwetaung

This pagoda festival is similar to others pagoda festivals in Myanmar. According to legends,during the British time; Mrs. Hurtno wife of the commissioner was relieved from her eye disease after she offered a pair of glasses to the Buddha. Local people who live around this area believe that who ever have a problem with eyes can get remedy by worshipping this Buddha.

Mount Popa Nat Spirit Festival – Mt. Popa

26th December 2015 : Full moon day of Nadaw
Location: Mount Popa, near Bagan

Typical Nat festival, honoring the 37 Nats by performing rituals dances and songs and theater performances and by gifts of liquor.

Nats are nature spirits, being worshipped by many of the Myanmar people not just in the past when they were animists but also today. Animist beliefs where integrated into Buddhism so Nat statues can be found in Buddhist temples very often as well.
The Nats are spirits of natural forces, such as water, wind, stones and trees.
Most of the Myanmar people do pay some attention to them and regard the Nat worship as a method of dealing with this life, whereas Buddhism is concerned with future lives.

Akha New Year Festival – Keng Tung, Shan State

28th  December 2015
Location: Keng Tung, Shan State

The Akha minority people are famous for their colorful and intricate silver coin studded head geards and traditional clothing.
They gather once a year in Keng Tung in eastern Shan State to celebrate the Akha New Year.
On New Year’s Eve day Akha tribe members of all age gather at a big football ground for singing and dancing. On the following New Year’s Day all the participants take part in an auspicious breakfast and lunch to mark and wish for a prosperous New Year.