1. Full Moon of Tabaung
Full Moon of Tabaumg Festival is the traditional merit-making day for Buddhists. It takes place in the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month in Burmese calendar (often in Feb of May as in western calendar.)
- 2017 date: 11 February
- 2018 date: 01 March
- The spiritual purposes of this day comprise: not to involve any kind of sins, do only good deeds, purify one’s mind.
On this occasion, Buddhists go to pagoda and carried out merit-making activities. The meaning of this festival is to show veneration to Buddha and his teaching.
According to the legend, Full Moon of Tabaung festival marks the 4 fabulous events happening at the Veḷuvana bamboo grove, near Rājagaha in northern India ten months after the enlightenment of the Buddha. As recorded, four auspicious facts are:
- 1,250 disciples came to see the Buddha on this evening without being summoned.
- All of them were Arhantas or Enlightened Ones. They were ordained by the Buddha himself.
- The Buddha gave Arhantas the principles of Buddhism, which are: to cease from all evils; to do what is good; to cleanse one’s mind.
- It was a full-moon day.
The Myanmar’s greatest pagoda festival, namely the Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda festival is taken place on this time. It begins with the nakyake shitsu ceremony that supply offerings for 28 Buddhas, followed by a 10-day nonstop recounting by the Pathana (Buddhist scriptures) about 24 causes of worldly phenomena.
Other pagoda festivals are held on this day, including the Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival in Minbu Township and the Alaungdaw Kathapa Pagoda Festival in Sagaing Region (Mandalay).
2. Thingyan New Year Festival
Organized from 13rd to 16th April coinciding with Easter, this is the Water Festival – the biggest festival – to welcome New Year in Myanmar. Water symbolizes for purity that can clear away all sins, diseases and bad lucks. So people splash water to each other to begin a new year with a cleansed soul.
In Myanmar, the festival is commonly known as Thingyan, which means “change”.
It lasts over 4 days:
- Akyo-nei (Thingyan Eve)
- A-kya nei, A-kyat nei and A-tet nei (the final)
- The fifth day is Hnit hsan ta yet nei (New Year’s Day).
On Thingyan occasion, Thaya Min God from the heaven come down to the earth on his annual visit. At the exact time of Thaya Min God’s arrival, booming of cannon sounds. After that, traditional rites are carried out to welcome the God.
Good humor prevails during the festival time. People with buckets, pots and cans of water splash to anybody passing over. Powerful water pipes are everywhere to douse people. Decorated cars or carts are driven around to throw water to everybody and get wet in return. Children use water pistols to drench their friends and relatives. In big cities like Yangon, hoses and hydrants in gardens, water balloons and even fire hoses are also used for the festival.
No passer-by will escape from drenching, no matter whether they are Buddhist or non-Buddhist, Burmese or non-Burmese, except monks, elders, sick ones and of course pregnant women.
Read more: Our top 7 tips to enjoy your Water festival in Myanmar. Enjoyable, getting more fun and forgetable experience in Myanmar.
Soaked to skin, even with water in nostrils, ears and eyes then being laughed, as the spirit of Thingyan, is called as cheer and friendship.
All corners of the country become absolutely jubilant and vibrant. Burmese damsels apply thanaka on face, pin sweet scented yellow padauk flowers on hair and dance on street.
On the final day, some people still sprinkle water onto others and say an apology, something like “Thagya Min God left his water tube and he will come back to get it.”
In the traditional way, young people will wash hair for their adults by beans and barks of acacia rugata tree. Fish and even bigger animals are released back to lakes and rivers with the wish: “I release you once, you release me ten times.”
3. Kason Watering Festival – Buddha Day
As the most important day in Buddhist world, this day is taken place in the time that all ponds, lakes and creeks decrease to its lowest level. Kason, the second month of Burmese calendar (usually in May), is deemed as the hottest month in the hot season.
Kason full-moon day signify 4 most significant days in Gotama Buddha life time:
- The day he had been prophesied to become the next Buddha. Dipankara Budha predicted that the hermit Sumedha would become Gotama Buddha, the latest one in this Buddha world.
- The day he was born
- The day he achieved ENLIGHTENMENT (became a Buddha)
- And the day he entered PARINIRVANA (passed away)
The Burmese celebrate this day by watering the Maha-Bodhi tree at various Myanmar pagodas. Maha-Bodhi is the sacred banyan tree which Gotama Buddha sat under when he attained enlightenment.
As Kason is the hottest month, the earth is really dry. To show respect to Gotama Buddha, people pour water on the foot of Maha-Bodhi tree to make sure it does not die of drought during hot summer. This ceremony has become an important part of burmese culture on every full-moon day of Kason. Buddhists will march in a grand procession to Maha-Bodhi tree or to pagodas to pour scented water.
4. Full-moon of Tazaungmon (Tazaungdaing or Festival of Lights)
Also known as Festival of Lights, it is held on Tazaungmon – the eighth month of Burmese calendar (usually in November). This day marks the end of the rainy season.
Tazaungdaing Festival is to honor the introduction of Buddhism in Myanmar. On this day, robe-weaving competitions to create special yellow monk robes named matho thingyan are held over the country during two consecutive nights (the preceding night and the full-moon night), most outstanding in Yangon’s Shwedagon pagoda. Contestants will work continuously from night to sunrise. These robes will be offered to monks in the Kahtain ceremony.
More reading: Festival of Lights (or Lighting Festival in Myanmar) in November annually: the activities, the best places to enjoy and suggested tour program to get there.
This tradition commemorates the well-known story about the Gautama Buddha’s life. Understanding that the Buddha would soon pass away, the Gautama Buddha’s mother, Maya, spent the whole night weaving yellow robes for him. Her sister Gotami (Buddha’s aunt) then kept on this tradition and offered new robes annually.
Nevertheless, the main significance of this festival is light, as many suppose this festival has existed even before the introduction of Buddhism in Myanmar, to honor the God of Light and the awakening of Lord Vishnu. Sparkle fireworks, fire balloons are sent to the sky and multicolored lanterns are lighted. It is also said that the Gautama Buddha would return to Tawadeintha on this day to visit his mother’s reincarnated spirit so people illuminate the path for him by lighting candles and lanterns.
In Shan state, long queues of people holding traditional lit lotus flower lanterns march on roads. Especially in Taunggyi, hot air balloons made from bamboo and mulberry paper are released on air as offerings to Tavatimsa, the heaven in Buddhist cosmology, or as a way to drive away evil spirits. This tradition is also held in Naypyidaw and Pyin Oo Lwin.
Also on this occasion, many people come back home to pay homage to elders. Almsgiving and charity consisting of sautuditha feasts are also common during this festival, regarded as merit-making activities.