Travellers who visit Myanmar often return talking of the incredible mix of cultures that melt together to create a unique multicultural feel. As many western countries have embraced multiculturalism in recent times, the Burmese have embraced a number of cultures and races for over 2,000 years.
The culture of Myanmar today is based on the strong influences of Buddhism and Mon culture. The surrounding countries, including India, China and Thailand have all played an important role in shaping the country’s culture throughout time. In recent history, the British colonised region leaving its unique stamp on the cultures of Myanmar.
Burmese artwork is heavily influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism, and various statues and images of the Buddha portray unique characteristics. One example is the Mandalay image, which consists of a plumper shaped Buddha, more akin with the image that originates from China. Buddhism has also influenced literary work, particularly noticeable in the Jataka Tales.
Dance plays a significant role in the culture of the Burmese, with many of the traditional dances influenced by neighbouring Thailand. Other forms of traditional dance in Myanmar consist of dramatic, folk and village, and nat dances – all with their own unique characteristics.
Myanmar also features a variety of traditional musical instruments and orchestras, with a sound that is atypical when compared with the local music of other regions. The music is distinctive and features sudden shifts in melody and timbre, a quality which is unique to Burmese music. Songs also play an important cultural role, with many traditional songs written in Pali language, often about subjects including religion, power and glory, monarchs and feminine beauty.
Myanmar has a myriad of holidays, each of which is celebrated with enthusiasm and grace by its inhabitants who often wear ceremonial clothing to celebrate amid festive foods and fireworks. Myanmar’s Independence Day is celebrated on January 4th and they celebrate Christmas on December 25th.
The Burmese calendar is made up of twelve months and the vast majority of festivals are connected with Buddhism. One of the most popular events to take place throughout the year is Thingyan, a five-day event which celebrates the coming lunar New Year.
Given the incredible mix of cultures of the tribes and races which have come to settle in Myanmar over the years, the local food has adapted to create an incredible mix of Thai, India and Chinese cooking. This delicate mix has come together to form Myanmar’s own exquisite cuisine. Curry is one of the most common dishes served in Myanmar, always with a serving of steamed rice. The food in Myanmar differs immensely depending on the region.
Here’s some of our favourites!
The best way to sum up the culture in Myanmar is complete and utter diversity. It would be impossible to define the Burmese culture on its own, as 135 races and ethnic groups with vastly different backgrounds form the makeup of Myanmar’s culture.