Top 5 Myanmar Festivals
Given the myriad of colourful events that dot the Burmese calendar, it is perhaps little wonder that Myanmar is often described as being the ‘land of festivals’.
Whilst many of these coincide with the full moon and most centre on the nation’s Buddhist convictions, one thing they all offer is the opportunity to experience an authentic and intense taste of the country’s vibrant culture.
Coinciding your Myanmar holiday with one of these incredible displays can certainly turn a great trip into an exceptional one. So, to help get you in the festive spirit, we’ve selected our five favourite ways to celebrate the country’s old world charm in style:
1) Ananda Pagoda Festival (January):
With the Burmese people still reliant on agriculture, it stands to reason that harvest plays a crucial role in the nation’s psyche. Every January, the ancient ruins of Bagan come alive for 15 days around the first full moon as convoys of ox carts make their way from the villages to this sacred spot. During this jubilant time Buddhist alms-giving rituals become entwined with harvest celebrations, making it a wonderful opportunity to combine a visit to one of the country’s best preserved temples with a chance to sample the fruits of the nation’s harvest in one of the many food stalls. And, perhaps best of all, Bagan is visited on every tour aboard our appropriately named Sanctuary Ananda.
2) Thingyan Water Festival (April):
What better way to see in the Burmese New Year than by washing away the old one with a high-spirited water festival. ‘Thingyan’ translates as the changing over and Myanmar’s biggest national festival – held in mid-April every year – has evolved into a five-day purification ritual like no other. Join in with the fun-loving locals as all ages use any receptacle going – from bucket to water gun – to hose each other down and enjoy some welcome relief from the day’s heat. Then, once evening falls, it’s time to feast on traditional local delicacies
3) Kason Festival (May):
To honour Buddha’s birthday, every May sees the country acknowledge this auspicious event with an alternative water-pouring ceremony. This time, the focus of the occasion is the sacred Bodhi Tree, under which Buddha gained enlightenment whilst meditating. During our Myanmar river cruises we can either arrange for you to follow the processions of pilgrims to join in the ritual that ensures these precious fig trees do not succumb to drought or pour scented water in one of the country’s magnificent pagoda complexes.
4) Thadingyut Festival of Lights (October):
As Buddhist Lent comes to an end, heralding clear skies and cooler climes, Myanmar is illuminated by a very special candlelit celebration. Lights are symbolic of Buddha’s return from heaven to earth and if you visit during this period you’ll be treated to a truly dazzling display as paper lanterns and oil lamps shimmer across the land. For an added touch of authenticity, we can even help you visit a pagoda to partake in the time-honoured tradition of creating your own glowing offering from a small sesame oil-filled earthen saucer and pieces of cotton as its makeshift wick.
5) Tazaungdaing Festival of Lights / Taunggyi Balloon Festival (November):
This shining example of a festival takes a very different approach to Thadingyut, with people marking the end of the rainy season by releasing candle-lit paper balloons. These heavenly offerings are said to drive away evil spirits as the homemade lanterns take to the skies every mid-November to celebrate the full moon. For a spectacle on an even bigger scale, however, one of the top spots to enjoy this national holiday is Taunggyi. Here the week-long festival sees days and nights filled with the launch of hundreds of hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes, some of which are packed with fireworks for added sparkle.
For more information on our luxury Myanmar tours aboard the Sanctuary Ananda visit www.sanctuaryretreats.com/burma-myanmar-river-cruise-holiday.