Festivals in Myanmar

Myanmar is a land of colourful festivals. There is at least one festival for every month of the year. Festivals are joyous events for local people which reflect Myanmar’s religious and cultural roots since ancient times. Majority of festivals are celebrated nation-wide while some are regional events.

January

Ananda Pagoda Festival

anada festivalWhere: Bagan, Mandalay Region
When: Full Moon of Pyatho to 15th Waning of Pyatho
Duration: 15 days

Ananda Pagoda festival is one of the most famous pagoda festivals in Bagan and it is said to have been celebrating continuously since the ancient time of Bagan. People from villages around Bagan would come to the festivals in bullock-carts and make camps for the whole duration of the festival. Bowls of alms filled with offerings by devotees are donated to monks during the festival.

 

Manaw Festival (Kachin New Year Festival)

kachin festivalWhere: Myitkyina, Kachin State
When: Usually around the first week of January
Duration: 1 day

The Kachin people from northern part of Myanmar are a major ethnic group of the country. All the Kachin people including those who are staying abroad will come back to their motherland to celebrate this New Year festival and participate in Manaw Dance.

 

Naga New Year Festival

naga festivalWhere: Lathe or Layshi, Sagaing Region
When: Usually January 14-16
Duration: 3 days

Naga New Year festival is one of the most breathtaking events of Myanmar. The Naga are one of Myanmar national races who live in Naga land, north-west of Myanmar. The festival is celebrated by about 49 different Naga clans with their own different dialects and costumes decorated with colourful ornaments, animal horns, fangs and claws.

 

February

Hta Ma Nae Festival ( Glutinous Rice Festival )

htamanae festivalWhere: Throughout Myanmar
When: Full Moon Day of Tabodwe
Duration: 1 day

To donate glutinous rice to Buddha in early morning on full moon day of Tabodwe, cooking contests called, Hta Ma Nae pwe are held. It involves huge pans of sticky glutinous rice with ginger, coconut and sesame cooked by teams of strong men in a racing manner. After the rice is cook, it is offered to monks and people.

 

Kyaik Khuak Pagoda Festival

Where: Thanlyin, Yangon Region
When: 8th Waxing to Full Moon Day of Tabodwe
Duration: 8 days

It is one of the famous festivals around city of Yangon with shops and entertainments which include traditional Myanmar drama and dance, called Zat Pwe and A-nyeint, music shows and movies all night long.

 

Maha Muni Buddha Image Festival

mahamuni festivalWhere: Mandalay, Mandalay Region
When: 14th Waxing and Full Moon Day of Tabodwe
Duration: 2 days

Maha Muni Buddha Image is one of highly revered Buddha images in Myanmar. Devotees light bonfires and hold glutinous rice delicacy contests called, Hta Ma Nae pwe, where huge pans of sticky glutinous rice with ginger, coconut and sesame are cook by teams of strong men. After the rice is cook, it is offered to monks and people.

 

Shwe Set Taw Pagoda Festival

shwesattaw festivalWhere: Minbu Township, Magway Region
When: 5th Waxing of Tabodwe
Duration: 11 days

Mann Shwe Set Taw (The Golden Footprints of Buddha) Pagoda is one of the most venerated pagodas in Myanmar. There are two imprints of Buddha’s feet: the Auk Set Taw Ya (Lower Golden Footprint) on the bank of Mann Creek and the Ahtet Set Taw Ya (Upper Golden Footprint) on Thitsa Banda Hill. As rain recedes, sandbars also appear along the banks of the Mann Creek and on these sandbars, bamboo stalls and sleeping berths for the pilgrims are setup during the festival time.

 

March

Alaungdaw Khathahpa Pagoda Festival

alaungdaw khathahpa festivalWhere: Alaungdaw Khathahpa National Park, Yinmarbin Township, Sagaing Region
When: Full Moon Day of Tabodwe/Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: 1 day

Alaungdaw Khathahpa Pagoda hosts two festivals each year: one on the full moon day of Tabodwe and one the following month on the full moon day of Tabaung. At the festival in Tabodwe, 9000 illuminated candles are offered together with glutinous rice while at the second festival in Tabaung, a large alms-offering ceremony is conducted. The festivals attract residents from Sagaing Region and Chin State as well as pilgrims across the country.

 

Baw Gyo Pagoda Festival

baw gyo festivalWhere: Thibaw Township, Shan State
When: 10th Waxing Day to Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: 6 days

This is a historic pagoda festival in Shan State where you can observe Shan tradition, culture and customs which are different from those in central Myanmar.

 

Inn Daw Gyi Shwe Myint Zu Pagoda Festival

inn daw kyi festivalWhere: Moegaung, Kachin State
When: 8th Waxing Day to 1st Waning Day of Tabaung

This is the yearly pagoda festival of Shwe Myint Zu Pagoda, consecrated in Kone Baung era located at Inn Daw Gyi Lake, the biggest natural lake in Myanmar.


 

Kakku Pagoda Festival

kakku pagoda festivalWhere: Taunggyi Township, Shan State
When: 14th waxing day of Tabaung
Duration: 3 days

Kakku area has about 3000 ancient stupas surrounding a pagoda hill. Pa Oh people from all the surrounding villages come to pay homage to the pagoda.

 

Maw Tin Zun Pagoda Festival

mawtinzun festivalWhere: Laputta Township, Pathein, Ayeyarwaddy Region
When: 8th Waxing day to Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: 8 days

This is the only seaside pagoda festival in Myanmar which attracts many visitors who came to pay homage to the pagoda located at shoreline of sea and buy traditional items such as famous Pathein Htee (parasol) made of wood, bamboo and cotton.

 

Pa Khan U Min Kyaw Nat Festival

pa khan u min kyaw nat festivalWhere: Yezagyo, Pakkoku Township, Magway Region
When: 3th Waxing to 10th Waxing of Tabaung
Duration: 8 days

The ceremony is devoted to Nat (Spirit) of U Min Kyaw also known as Ko Gyi Kyaw and has interesting activities such as Nat dance, cock-fighting and re-enactment of Ko Gyi Kyaw’s legend. Many people around the country come to the festival.

 

Pindaya Shwe-U Min Festival

pindaya festivalWhere: Pindaya, Shan State
When: 11th Waxing Day to Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: 5 days

Pindaya Cave is famous for thousands of Buddha images which have been consecrated for worship over centuries. During the festival, many ethnic groups such as Shan, Pa-O, Palaung, Taung Yoe, Intha, Danu people as well as thousands of visitors come to participate in the event.

 

Shinbyu (Novitiation) Ceremony

shinbyu festivalWhere: Throughout Myanmar
When: During months of Tabodwe and Taboung (mostly school holidays in March and April)
Duration: 2 days

It is the most important duty of Buddhist parents to their son (under age of 20) by letting him go forth and embrace the legacy of the Buddha, join the Sangha and become immersed in the teachings of the Buddha, the Dhamma, at least for a short while, perhaps longer if not for the rest of his life. This ceremony is regarded by Buddhists as the best religious gift that parents can give their son and it is believed to have a lasting effect on his life.

 

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival

shwedagon festivalWhere: Yangon, Yangon Region
When: Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: one week before the full moon day

Shwedagon Pagoda is most famous pagoda in Myanmar. During the festival, tens of thousands of people from all over the country come to the festival. There is an overnight contest using traditional looms to weave holy robes to offer the Buddha images and the monks recite Holy Scriptures for 24 hours throughout the duration of the festival. Many devotees pay homage every day and make donations for preservation and renovation of the pagoda.

 

Shwe Nat Taung Pagoda Festival

Where: Shwe Taung Township, Bago Region
When: 8th Waxing day to Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: 8 days

It is one of the largest pagoda festivals in the region and many pilgrims from surrounding villages arrive in bullock-carts.

 

Shwe Myet Hman Pagoda Festival

shwe myet hman pagoda festivalWhere: Shwe Taung, Bago Region
When: 13th Waxing Day to Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: 3 days

This one of the famous pagodas located in Shwe Taung. Unlike other Buddha image, Shwe Myet Hman Buddha Image is with a pair of spectacles.

 

Shwe Sar Yan Pagoda Festival

shwe sar yan festivalWhere: Shwe Sar Yan Village, Pathein Gyi Township, Mandalay Region
When: Full Moon Day to 8th Waning Day of Tabaung
Duration: 9 days

Many visitors come to visit the festivals. One of the main attractions is toys woven with palm fronds.


 

Zalun Pyi Taw Pyan Buddha Image Festival

zalun pyi taw pyan festivalWhere: Zalun, Ayeryarwady Region
When: 8th Waxing Day to Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Duration: 8 days

This is one of the renowned Buddha Images in Myanmar with a famous legend. When the British occupied Myanmar, they tried to bring back the Zalun Pyi Taw Pyan Buddha Image to England in order to use the bronze from Buddha in their mint. However, the British could not melt or break the Buddha image and the Queen of England was said to be starting to suffer from headaches and nightmares as such she ordered that the Buddha image to be returned to its original place. The British could not find the original site so they put the Buddha image near Hinthada and Zulun. A tug-of-war competition took place between people of Hinthada and Zulun where Zulun emerged victorious and ever since then the Buddha image has been placed in Zulun.

 

April

Myanmar New Year Day

thingyan festivalWhere: All over the country
When: Usually 17 April (the next day after Thingyan Festival)

Myanmar New Year Day is celebrated all over the country to following Thingyan Festival. This is the most auspicious day for Myanmar Buddhists to perform good deeds. People make a lot of meritorious deeds such taking Sabbath, paying homage to pagodas and monasteries, offering alms to monks, paying respects to elders, parents and teachers, freeing fish and cattle etc

 

Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda Festival

shwe maw daw festivalWhere: Bago, Bago Region
When: 8th Waxing Day to 5th Waning Day of Tagu
Duration: 13 days

This is the most famous pagoda festival in Bago region with many theatre troupes performing their art and dance.


 

Thanakha Making Event And Buddha Image Bathing Event

Where: Sittwe, Rakhine State
When: Thanakha Making - 12th April on the eve of Thingyan Festival and Buddha Image Bathing on 13th April

On the 12th April, young women grind the barks of Thanakha, a famous Myanmar scented wood, on round stone slabs to make a fine cream where young men participated by performing music and dance. On 13th April, Buddha Images are bathed with aromatic creams make a day earlier.

 

Thingyan Festival (Water Festival)

thingyan festival 01Where: All over the country
When: Usually 13th April to 16th April
Duration: 4 days

This festival is the most interesting and joyous occasion for all Myanmar people. Pouring water means cleansing one’s body and mind of evils in the past year. During festival days, the roads and streets are crowded with people splashing water on one another. Some people go around the town on open trucks while some throw water from decorated pavilions. They are also many traditional dance show and music performances stages on the pavilions. While young people enjoy themselves throwing water, elders take shelter in monasteries and pagodas.

 

May

Moken (Salone) Festival

Where: Myeik Archipelago
When: After Thingyan Water Festival
Duration: 1 Day

Moken people are sea gypsies of Myeik Archipelago. They live on boats during dry season and stay on land during rainy season. During the festival, one can observe the way of living, traditions, customs, and culture of Mokens.

 

Nyaung Ye Thun Festival (Kason Water Pouring Festival)

nyaung ye thun festivalWhere: All over the country
When: Full Moon Day of Kason

This ceremony is to commemorate the attainment of enlightenment by Buddha under the sacred Bodhi Tree. Buddhists flock to pagodas and monasteries to pour water on the Bodhi trees to gain merits.


 

Shite Thaung Pagoda Festival

shite thaung pagoda festivalWhere: Mrauk-U, Rakhine State
When: Around Full Moon Day of Kason
Duration: 8 days

This is a famous pagoda festival in Rakhine State which includes boat races, traditional wrestling and water splashing activities.

 

Shwe Kyet Yet Pagoda Festival

Where: Mandalay, Mandalay Region
When: 14th waxing day of Kason

It is a pagoda festival for water pouring on the sacred Bodhi tree on the 14th waxing day of Kason, a day before normal water pouring day.

 

June

Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival

pakokku thiho shin festivalWhere: Pakokku, Magway Division
When: 8th Waxing Day of Nayon
Duration: 15 days

The Thiho Shin Buddha Image festival is the most important pagoda festivals to all the towns west of Ayeryarwady River. The Buddha image was donated by King of Ceylon hundreds of years ago.

 

July

Chin Lone Festival (Cane Ball/Wicker Ball Festival)

chin lone festivalWhere: Maha Muni Pagoda Compound, Mandalay, Mandalay Region
When: After Full Moon Day of Waso Duration: Many weeks

Chin Lone is one of the traditional sports in Myanmar. Hundreds of chin lone teams from all over the country come up to Mandalay to compete in this festival. Chin Lone contests for individuals and teams are played with live music from a Sine-Wine, Myanmar traditional orchestra.

 

Sune-U Pone Nya Shin Pagoda Festival

Where: Sagaing Hill, Sagaing Region
When: Full Moon Day of Warso

Devotees from villages around the pagoda pay homage to the pagoda.

 

Waso Robe Donation Ceremony

waso robe donationWhere: All over the country
When: Full Moon Day of Waso

After Buddha had attained Enlightenment, he preached his first sermon, the Dhammasekya, to his first five disciples on the full moon day of Waso. It is also the first day of the Buddhist Lent during which the monks are prohibited to travel and sleep outside of their monasteries. Devotees perform holy robe donation ceremonies at monasteries.

 

August

Shwe Kyun Pin Nat Festival

Where: Mingun, Sagaing Region
When: 1st Waxing day of Wagaung
Duration: 3 days

This is a festival to worship Nats who are keepers of Ayeryarwady River. After harvest season, many farmers come together to worship Nats to give them a good harvest for the next season.

 

Taung Pyone Nat Festival

taung pyone nat festivalWhere: Taung Pyone Village, Mandalay Region
When: 8th Waxing to Full Moon Day of Wagaung
Duration: 8 Days

This is the most famous of the Nat (Spirit) festivals in Myanmar and is held for worshipping two Taung Pyone Brothers. The event is visited by tens of thousands of visitors and spiritual mediums.

 

Yadana Gu Nat Festival

Where: Yadana Gu, Amarapura Township, Mandalay
When: 1st Waning to 8th Waning Day of Wagaung
Duration: 8 days

This is a festival to honour Mae Wunna, the mother of the two Taung Pyone brothers.

 

September

Manuha Pagoda Festival

manuha pagoda festivalWhere: Bagan, Mandalay Region
When: A day before Full Moon Day of Tawthalin
Duration: 2 days

Men parade around with large figures heroes, celestials and animals which are made of papers whiles ladies brings trays of fruits and cakes to the pagoda. At night time, there are dances and plays. Early next morning, food is offered to the pagoda and monks.

 

Paung Dae Buddha Tooth Relic Festival

Where: Paung Dae, Bago Region
When: 13th Waxing to Full Moon Day of Tawthalin
Duration: 3 days

Buddha’s Tooth Relic is put on the back of an elephant and is put on display around the town for worshippers.

 

October

Mya Tha Lun Pagoda Festival

Where: Magway, Magway Region
When: Full Moon Day of Thadingyut
Duration: 1 day

One of the famous pagodas in the region and its festival serve as a great fair for exchange of locally produced goods. Early morning rice offering to hundreds of monks and lighting of thousands of candles are main attractions.

 

Kaung Mhu Daw Pagoda Festival

kaung mhu daw festivalWhere: Sagaing, Sagaing Region
When: Around Full Moon Day of Thadingyut
Duration: 5 days

Caravans of bullock-carts which carry devotees and local products arrive to join one of the most famous festivals of Central Myanmar.

 

Kyauk Sae Elephant Dance Festival

kyauk sae elephant festivalWhere: Kyauk Sae, Mandalay Region
When: One day before Full Mon Day of Thadingyut and the Full Moon Day
Duration: 2 days

Colourfully decorated elephants of life-size made of paper and bamboo and carried by two men inside, dance around the town and compete in dancing.

 

Kyauk Taw Gyi Buddha Image Festival

kyauk taw gyi festivalWhere: Mandalay, Mandalay Region
When : One day before Full Moon Day of Thadingyut
Duration: 4 days

A festival centred on the Buddha image which was carved from a single piece of marble stone. There is an annual competition of Chin Lone teams.

 

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

phaung daw oo festivalWhere: Inle Lake, Nyaung Shwe Township, Shan State
When: 1st Waxing Day to 3rd Waning Day of Thadingyut
Duration: 18 Days

Paung Daw Oo Pagoda located in Inle Lake is famous for its five Buddha images. During the festival, four Buddha images are taken around the lake on a Karaweik royal barge, tugged by leg rowed boats. Thousands of devotees residing in or around Inle Lake bring offerings in their boats and pay homage to the passing by Buddha images on the barge. Famous leg-rowing boat races are held throughout the festival.

 

Shwe Kyin Light Festival

Where: Shwe Kyin, Bago Region
When: After Full Moon Day of Thadingyut
Duration: 1 day

The festival includes boat rowing races and synchronized paddling competitions in day time and during night time, locals launch hundreds of lit candles into Shwe Kyin Creek.

 

Thadingyut Festival (Festival Of Lights)

thadingyut festivalWhere: Throughout Myanmar
When: One day before Full Moon Day, Full Moon Day and one day after Full Moon Day
Duration: 3 days

This festival commemorates the event when the Buddha’s descent from the heaven after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya, who was reborn in the heaven. During the festival days, Buddhists illuminate and festoon streets, houses and buildings with colored electric bulbs and candles. Buddhists go to pagodas and monasteries to light candles and to make offerings. Younger people pay respect to their parents, teachers and elderly relatives and offer fruits and gifts. In return, the elder ones wish blessings for young ones and usually give them some pocket money. Thadingyut Festival marks the end of Buddhist Lent.

 

November

Kha Htein Ahlu (Donation) Ceremony

kha htein ahluWhere: Throughout Myanmar
When: Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone
Duration: 1 day

Kha Htein Ceremony is held to donate new robes to monks after end of rainy season. Sets of new robes and other necessities of monks are donated to monks and cash donations are also displayed and donated on wooden frames in the shape of a tree.

 

Ka Htein Thin-Gam (Monk’s Robe) Weaving Contests

kha htein thin gamWhere: Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon as well as other pagodas throughout Myanmar
When: Begins in the evening before Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone
Duration: all night long

On the evening of full moon day, teams of young women take part in weaving competitions held on the platforms of pagodas in order to finish the robe (Thin-gam) overnight and offered at dawn the next day to Buddha images around the pagodas.

 

Pho Win Taung Pagoda Festival

Where: Monywa, Sagaing Region
When: One day before Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone
Duration: 2 days

This is a famous pagoda festival in Monywa with traditional entertainment and shops.

 

Shwezingon Festival

shwezingon festivalWhere: Bagan
When: Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone
Duration: 9 days

This is a great fair for locals where there are evening entertainments such as Zats (drama), A-nyeints (traditional dance) as well as popular movies shown in open air. On full moon day there is communal offering of food and articles to the monks from nearby monasteries.

 

Shwe San Daw Pagoda Festival

Where: Pyay, Bago Region
When: Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone
Duration: 1 day

The Shwe San Daw Pagoda, where four hair strands and eight other relics of Buddha are enshrined, is one of main Buddhist pilgrim sites in Myanmar and its festival is one of the most visited festivals by pilgrims.

 

Taunggyi Tazaungdaing Festival (Hot Air Balloons Festival)

taunggyi festivalWhere: Taunggyi, Shan State
When: Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone
Duration: 3 days

This is the most spectacular event of Myanmar where thousands of locals and tourists visit Taunggyi to enjoy this balloon launching competition during festival. Traditionally the festival is held to pay homage to the Sulamuni Pagoda in the heaven by sending up lighted hot air balloons. During the festival, large hot-air balloons of different designs, including pagodas and animals, are launched day and night. Day-time flying is intended for competition of balloon figures and night-time launch is for beautiful mid-air fireworks.

 

December

Kyaik Hti Yo (Golden Rock) Pagoda Festival Of Nine Thousand Candles

kyaik hti yo festivalWhere: Kyaik Hto, Mon State
When: 31st December
Duration: 1 day

Kyaik Hti Yo Pagoda (Golden Rock) is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrims site in Myanmar. The pagoda is located on the top of a big balancing boulder located on the edge of a cliff. Many local pilgrims and tourists visit this amazing pagoda and it is very crowded especially on the full moon day of Tazaungmone. On a particular night in 31st December, nine thousands candles are ceremoniously lit to pay homage to Buddha.

 

Mae La Mu Pagoda Festival

mae la mu festivalWhere: North Okkalapa Township, Yangon, Yangon Region
When: 8th Waxing to Full Moon Day of Nadaw
Duration: 8 days

It is one of the famous pagoda festivals in Yangon Region. Festive activities include Holy Scripture recitation for twenty four hours by monks, offerings and donations and entertainments.

 

Popa Guardian Spirits Festival

popa festivalWhere: Mount Popa, Central Myanmar
When: Full Moon Day of Nadaw
Duration: 6 days

This is one of the important Nat festivals in Myanmar to worship spirits of Maung Tint De and his sister Shwe Myet Hna, guardians of ancient city of Bagan where their statues can still be found on sides of Tharabha Gate in Bagan.

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