Happy Thingyan from Myanmar!
April is an eventful month in Myanmar. If like me you are lucky enough to arrive in the country at the middle of the month, you will be the lucky witness of the unmissable Thingyan or Myanmar Water Festival.
When does it hold?
Celebrated at the end of dry season, Thingyan marks the beginning of the Buddhist New Year. The precise dates are based on the lunar calendar and the 2015 festival will take place from 13th to 17th April. Neighboring Theravada Buddhist countries also have their New Year around the same time of the year, which is called Songkran in Thailand and Laos and Chaul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia.
How is it celebrated?
Throughout the week, Myanmar celebrates the New Year by closing all shops and businesses and enjoys international and traditional dances and music. But the main attraction is the water-throwing which represents the washing away of previous’ year bad luck and sins. It is traditionally said that Thingyan marks the descent of Thagyamin, the King of the gods, from the Tavatimsa or heavenly place. Thagyamin will note the good deeds of the Buddhist population in a golden book while the bad deeds will be written in a book made of dog’s skin.
Thingyan activities go from 10 am to 6 pm and, no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to stay dry. There are two types of merrymakers during water festival. The first are those who throw waters to the visitors from bamboo stages which are built specifically for the festival and often feature music. The other festival goers are the ones who pass by the stages in open-air trucks, jeeps, bicycles or on foot. A local tip: don’t bring electronics to the festival and put your camera and money in seal-able, water-resistant bags. Even as a tourist you will be a part of the revelry – the Myanmar people want to make sure foreigners experience the best of the festival. Only monks and elderly are safe from the splashing!
While the celebrations are held through the country, it varies from city to city. If you don’t want to be soaking wet, we suggest you to visit smaller villages like Bagan and Inle Lake which are less lively. But if you want to experience Thingyan to the fullest, be sure to stay in Yangon or Mandalay.
New Year Day
The final day of celebration is the actual New Year’s Day, on 17th April. On this day, Myanmar residents honor the new year by cleaning the floors of the pagodas and monasteries, washing old-aged peoples’ hair and helping to cut them their nails. Some offer free food and drinks for everyone who visits the pagodas or make donations. New Year is also celebrated by releasing captive fish and birds into larger lakes and rivers with a prayer and a wish. Feasts are also held for monks.
Thingyan Traditional Foods
When you are not avoiding water or making offerings, be sure to seek out the special Thingyan foods. As with every ceremony in Myanmar, a local food is made especially for this festival. For Thingyan everyone enjoys Mont-Lone-Yay-Paw, sticky rice dumpling with palm sugar (jaggery). During the Thingyan Festival, hotels are generally fully booked and long-distance transportation is severely reduced. Moreover, most shops and offices close for approximately 2 weeks. If you are willing to come and enjoy the festival, don’t forget to plan ahead.
Thingyan festival is the perfect occasion to discover the friendliness and hospitality of Burmese people. If you want to share a memorable moment with your family and experience Myanmar tradition to the fullest, this is the time of the year you should visit Myanmar.
Happy New Year in Myanmar!
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