7 Festivals in Myanmar That You Should Not Miss

7 Festivals in Myanmar That You Should Not Miss

Experiencing Myanmar’s festivals is a great way to understand its culture, and an even better way to make it a memorable destination.

Myanmar is renowned for the Burmese people’s festive spirit, and each year,  there are festivals that happen all across the country. Below is the list of festivals that you should not miss as you plan your trip to Myanmar. One thing to note is that most festivals happen according to the Burmese calendar, so the dates of the festivals may vary each year. We recommend checking the dates before you travel.

1. Thingyan Festival

myanmar festivals

Image credit: Yoav David

Location: All across Myanmar

The most famous festival in Myanmar, the Thingyan Water Festival is held in celebration of the Myanmar New Year. This festival is similar to the famous Songkran Festival in Thailand wherein people throw or splash water at one another during the four-day festival. The festival happens all across the Yangon region, but Mandalay has the bragging rights for being the most crowded city to celebrate the Myanmar New Year. Usually, the festival lasts four days but on a leap year, it lasts five days. On the Burmese New Year day, Myanmar people also do good deeds by offering meals and snacks, taking Sabbath, or cutting nails for their elders.

2. Kachin Manaw Festival

Location: Myitkyina

Manaw Festival is usually held in Kachin State and is held every year in January to welcome the New Year. During the festival, you will see Manaw poles that are long, artistically designed, and erected at the centre of the festival area. Kachin people usually dance around these poles as a way to celebrate the New Year, the reunion of tribes, and the victories in battle. You can see beautiful Kachin people in their traditional costumes, and you may also participate in the dance with them during the festival.

3. Taunggyi Tazaungdaing Festival

Location: Taunggyi

The most popular festival held in the Shan State is the Taunggyi Tazaungdaing, also known as the Festival of Lights, which usually happens around November. During the festival, you can see many hot air balloons of varying shapes and sizes that are launched to the sky as an offering to the heavens, and to fight off evil spirits. The festival is quite popular among the locals because it’s similar to music festivals where there are loud music and lots of beer and food. If you are travelling to Myanmar in November, make sure to witness this awesome event. Booking your hotel in advance is highly recommended, as the city runs out of accommodations very quickly due to the high number of travellers.   

4. Kyaikhtiyo Thadingyut Festival

myanmar festivals

Image credit: We Are Myanmar

Location: Kyite-hto

Although Thadingyut Festival is held all across Myanmar, the Kyaikhtiyo Thadingyut Festival is the most famous of all among the locals. People light candles during the festival as a way to welcome the Lord Buddha back from the heavens, where he is believed to preach to his reborn mother, before returning to earth. On the day of the full moon of Thadingyut, locals offer 9,000 candles and flowers to the pagoda. Burmese children also love this festival because it’s when elderly people give them pocket money when they visit the home of their elders to give thanks. This tradition also reflects the filial piety nature of Burmese people.

5. Taungbyone Nat Festival

Image credit: Cristina Bejarano

Location: Mount Popa

Although the majority of Burmese people believe in Buddhism, there is still a significant population that believes in Nats. Nats are said to be terrestrial spirits that influence human activity. Taungbyone Nat Festival is held in celebration of these spirits and is usually held around July and August. You will see people drinking and dancing during this lively festival. Nat believers offer beer, fried chicken, and money to the Nat Gadaws, who are like shamans that embody the spirits and act as their vessel. Nat Gadaws perform and dance in different costumes depending on the spirit they embody.

6. Kyaukse Elephant Dance Festival

Image credit: Myanmar Travel Guide

Location: Kyaukse

Kyaukse is located just about 44km away from Mandalay, and every year around October, people from upper Myanmar usually come to Kyaukse during the festival to enjoy the elephant dance. There are usually two people who enter inside the paper-elephant to dance. These dancers must completely be in sync when it comes to rhythm and timing for the dance to be successful. This festival is held to pay homage to the Shwe Tha Lyaung Pagoda in Kyaukse.

7. Shittaung Pagoda Festival

myanmar festivals

Image credit: Arakan Today

Location: Mrauk U

Usually held in April, this festival is the most popular among Rakhine people. During this festival, you can watch Rakhine traditional dances, boxing matches, and boat rowing competitions. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the ancient temples and pagodas of the old Mrauk U Dynasty. Although the transportation access to the Mrauk U town is currently difficult (you either take a 20-hour bus ride or take a flight to Sittwe airport and rent a private car for a three-hour drive), witnessing the amazing physical activities of the Shittaung Pagoda Festival makes it worth the travel.

These diverse and famous festivals in Myanmar aren’t only celebrations, but they are a traditional way of giving an in-depth experience into its people’s culture, ideology, and way of life, to both foreign and local tourists. This is something you would not want to miss if you have the opportunity to visit Myanmar at the right time.

About Author

Zaw Ye Naing
Zaw Ye Naing

Zaw enjoys three things in life the most: eating, making new friends, and travelling. To enjoy all three things that he loves, he often travels where he can eat new dishes and make new friends. Zaw has travelled extensively in Southeast Asia (Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam) and it does not matter whether he has to travel alone or with the group. All that matters to him is to travel.

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