Year Round Festivals & Ceremonies in Myanmar

Foreigners designate Myanmar as “The Golden Land” not just for the glittering pagodas, but also for the warmth and fun-loving of the people. Myanmars are Happy-go-lucky-people; as their natural inclination for fun and festivities is clearly reflected in the number and diversity by anything from a historical event to a religious celebration. There’s always a festival for every month in Myanmar Calendar, which traditionally consists of twelve lunar months. The following month by month guide will tell you what is at where and when.

“ January ”

Ananda Pagoda Festival (Bagan)

This is one of the most famous Temple in Bagan holds its annual pagoda festival in the month of “Pyartho” in Myanmar calendar. The villagers from around Bagan come to the festival in a caravan of traditional bullock carts and camp under the shady trees in the pagoda compound for the whole duration of the festival period. Many famous local theatrical troupes come also to provide entertainment for the festival comers. The Pagoda festival mall features: selling local products of the neighbor-hood, clothing, household utensils, pots & pans, agricultural tools & equipment’s, earthen-wares, big glazed jars, toys, traditional delicacies, food stalls and vendors. At the dawn, on the Full moon Day of Pyatho the pilgrims are ready with their alms offertory. The monks make their way between the donors lined up on both sides and all respectfully place their offertory in the monk’s hands. (Pagoda Festival starts from 24thDecember, 2017 until 6th January ,2018. The most crowded on the full moon day of Pyatho-1st January, 2018.)

Naga New Year Festival (in Sagaing Division)

Naga New Year Festival is one of the rarest ceremonies in Myanmar. There are more than 49 different clans with their own distinctive dresses and dialects. They usually gather annually to celebrate the New Year which falls on and around January 15 and celebrates at Lathe, Layshi or Khanti in Sagaing Division. The festival lasts three days. (Coming New Year Festival Date: from 12Th to 16th January, 2018.)

Kachin Manaw Festival (Myitkyina, Kachin State)

Kachin, one of the major national races in Myanmar celebrates their New Year festival usually in January. This festival has been held for more than three decades. Manaw festivals are normally held for the celebration of the New Year, victory in battles and reunion of the tribes etc. Everybody joins the spiritual dance lined up behind one another. The traditional Manaw poles are decorated in colorful Kachin motifs and are centered in the middle of the festival ground. All who came to the festival wear their best traditional costume. The main feature of the festival is dancing around the erected Manaw poles, quite similar to the totem poles of North American Indians. Manaw festival is held in Myitkyina in Kachin State. (Festival date can be variable. Normally it falls on the 10th of January every year.)

“ February ”

Chinese New Year (Yangon)

Myanmar‘s Chinese community celebrates this important 3 day Chinese festival in Yangon China Town and big cities. Much crashing of cymbals and banging of drums accompany the elaborate dragon, lion dances and temple festivals. Two acrobats in one dragon costume perform a dance over a course of high poles to the beating drums until they take the lucky ribbon, tied to one of the poles. (Chinese Festival starts from February 16th to February 18th, 2018. It is the Year of the Dog according to Chinese Zodiac. )

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

The Mahamuni Pagoda is a Buddhist temple and major pilgrimage site, located southwest of Mandalay, in Myanmar the Mahamuni Buddha image is deified in this temple, and originally came from Arakan. It is highly venerated in Myanmar and central to many people’s lives, as it is seen as an expression of representing the Buddha’s life. According to the legend, the Buddha visited the Dhanyawadi city of Arakan in 554 BC. King Sanda Thuriya requested that an image was cast of him. After casting the Great Image, the Buddha breathed upon it, and thereafter the image became the exact likeness of the Mahamuni. This festival usually lasts for 2 days. Traditional delicacy called Hta-ma-ne’ which is made of glutinous rice cooking contests are also held on the pagoda’s platform. A variety of incense sticks are burnt for the Myanmar Buddha image on the full moon day. During this festival, thousands of people from all over the country make the pilgrimage to the Mahamuni Pagoda. The temple is always the center of activities and during this festival it explodes with energy. Locals from far and near come to pay homage and respect to the Buddha image and enjoy the festival. Many street vendors sell, Thanakha, Myanmar made toys, Mandalay food and many more. It is very crowded in the pagoda’s compound. (Festival falls on the full moon Day of Tabodwe: 31st January, 2018.)

Hta-ma-ne’ Festival (Nation Wide)

This country-wide traditional festival celebrates on or around full moon day of Tabodwe in Myanmar Calendar among the Myanmar community. The celebration on a good harvesting, although name actually comes from the food made of glutinous rice cooked with groundnuts, coconut shreds, sesame oil, ginger and garlic traditionally eaten at this time of the year. You can also participate in the team-work of stirring the mixture with long paddles in the huge pan. Later, this traditional delicacy is offered to the Lord Buddha, monks, neighbors and guests. (The Full moon day of Tabodwe in 2018: 31st January, 2018.)

“ March ”

Noviciation Ceremony (Nation Wide)

One of Myanmar’s most interesting ceremonies usually comes on Myanmar months of Tabaung and Tagu. Here, young boys of Buddhist parents’ are ceremoniously paraded under golden umbrellas on their fathers’ shoulders sometimes, on the horse back, or on the elephant’s back to react the great renunciation of Prince Siddhartha some 2,600 years ago. You can experience this ceremony on your tour. (March-April)

Kakku Temples Pagoda Festival (Taunggyi)

Kakku Temples are situated 53 km south of Taunggyi, the capital of Southern Shan State, and just about 2 ½ Hr drive from Taunggyi. It is noted for its 2500 small temples, built on an area of foot-print shape of the Lord Buddha. It celebrates its own festival on and around the full moon day of Tabaung. It is time for Pa-O tribes in the region to gather at the temples to celebrate their successful harvest and to spend their earning at charity as a religious merit-making activity. The Festival features Pa-O traditional classic songs and dance. Pagoda mall is set up, selling local products, farm and household utensils, food and seasonal fruits. (Pagoda Festival dates: from 25thFebruary to 3rd March, 2018.)

Pindaya Shwe Oo Min Pagoda Festival (Pindaya)

Shwe Oo Min ; Pindaya Cave, located in Pindaya, about 45 km north of Kalaw, noted for its over 8,000 centuries old Buddha Images. It celebrates its festival on and around the full moon day of Tabaung. During the festival time, thousands of devotees throng to the cave to pay homage. Pagoda mall is set up at the foot of hill, selling local products, food and seasonal fruits like water melons, etc. Evening, festival features theatrical shows and gambling crowded by Pa-O, Da-nu, Taung-yo and Shan minorities in their traditional costumes.( Pagoda festival dates: from 25th February to 1st March, 2018.)

Shwe Dagon Pagoda Festival (Yangon)

The most famous the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon celebrates its festival on and around full moon day of Tabaung in Myanmar calendar. Many stalls are set up at the foot of the hill, selling food and other local products lining up in the Pagoda mall, theatrical shows are performed by famous Myanmar Dance Troupes.(Full moon day of Tabaung in 2018: 1st March, 2018.)

“ April ”

Thingyan (Water) Festival (Nation Wide)

The country-wide celebration is to mark the Traditional Myanmar New Year. Water is splashed, squirted and sometimes thrown by the bucketful. No one escapes, including policemen on duty. Symbolically the sprinkling of water washes away the sins and bad luck of the old year in preparation for the new. Traditionally, at the end of the festival, the people go to the pagodas and monasteries on the 17th April; the first new year day, to perform their religious service including the youths paying respect to the elders by washing hair and offering suitable foods and clothing, giving sanctuaries for the animals. Nights are filled with entertainments and lights. (Thingyan Festival in 2018: 12th April to 17th April)

“ May ”

Kason Sacred Bo Tree Watering Ceremony (Nation Wide)

This most holy of Buddhist day marks the birth, enlightenment and demise of the Buddha on the full moon day of “Kason” in Myanmar Calendar to commemorate the greatness of the Lord Buddha and his teachings. Festive activities feature; carrying scented water posts in procession, chanting Pali verses praising the Lord Buddha and Hymns. Bo tree watering ceremony can be seen in the precincts of famous Pagodas with sacred Bo Trees. (Full moon Day of Kason in 2018: 29th April, 2018.)

“ July ”

Warso Robe Offering Ceremony (Nation Wide)

The month of War-so in Myanmar calendar is associated with the offering of War-so Robe to the Buddhist monk viewed a precursor to the Buddhist lent, not later than the full moon day of Warso. After this day, the Buddhist monks are forbidden to travel and are required to spend the lent in their monasteries. The robes are offered to use during the period of retreat. You can experience this ceremony on and around the full moon day of Warso. (Full moon day of War-So in 2018: 27thJuly, 2018.)

Dhamma Sakya Day ( Shwedagon & other famous Pagodas)

It is one of the holiest of Buddhist days falling on the full moon day of War-so in Myanmar calendar, which commemorates the Lord Buddha’s first sermon to his first disciples. The holy day’s religious activities can be found at the precincts of famous pagodas and monasteries featuring; delivering sermons by Buddhist monks, reciting Pali verses praising Lord Buddha, offering meals to the monks.(Full moon day of War-So in 2018: 27th July,2018.)

“ August ”

Taung Pyone Nats Festival (Taung-Pyone village, near Mandalay)

Taung-Pyone ;about 13 miles north of Mandalay is the location of the Taung-Pyone Nat or Spirit Festival, the most famous animist’ celebration which takes place in August annually. Festival features; paying obeisance, praying to the powerful spirits of the two Taung-Pyone brothers, executed by the king in the 11th century and to all of the pantheon of 37 Nats, most of whom died in violent deaths before becoming Nats (Spirits) Nat’s music and dancing and the spirit mediums who are possessed by the spirits dance, drink, talk and sing to full extent. This immensely enjoyable spirit festival is full of fun because men can speak to women in an over-familiar manner and can take part in reveling and fun-making to one’s heart’s content.(Festival Dates : from 21st August to 26th August,2018.)

“ September ”

Garu Dhamma Day (Shwedagon & other famous Pagoda)

This one of the holy Buddhist days (also known as the day of five –fold Precept) falls on the full moon day of Tawthalin, the sixth month of Myanmar calendar is traditionally celebrated in accordance with the Buddhist culture. It took place only during the Lenten period; the full moon day of the month of “Tawthalin” is chosen as the day of the Fivefold Precept Celebration. The holy day’s religious activities can be seen at the precincts of famous pagodas and monasteries; featuring delivering sermons by Buddhist monks, keeping fivefold moral precepts by devotees, evening time reciting Pali verses praising Lord Buddha.(The Full moon day of Tawthalin in 2018 : 24th September 2018.)

Manuha Pagoda Festival (Bagan)

Manuha Pagoda is noted for its massive seated Buddhas in the narrow space which is believed to be a massage conveyed by captive Mon King Manuha in 1067. It is located in Myinkaba, near today new Bagan. The building contains three images of seated Buddhas and an image of Buddha, entering Nirvana. Manuha Temple is one of the oldest temples in Bagan. The Pagoda festival features: offering fruits and cakes at the Pagoda, alms offering ceremony to the Buddhist monks on the full moon day, religious procession with dance and music together with huge paper-made figures and festival mall; selling local products, home-made products, traditional delicacies, household utensils and agricultural tools & equipment’s for the local farmers. (Festival falls on the full moon day of Tawthalin: 23rd & 24th September in 2018.)

Mya Cedi Temple Festival (Bagan)

Mya Cedi Temple is famous for its “Myazedi Inscription” inscribed in 1113, the oldest surviving stone inscription of Myanmar’s History. The inscriptions were made in four languages: Myanmar, Pyu, Mon, and Pali which all retell the story of Prince Yajakumar and King Kyansittha. The primary importance of the Myazedi inscription is that the inscriptions allowed for the deciphering of the written Pyu language. Mya Cedi Temple is located in the village of Myinkaba near today new Bagan. It celebrates its own festival, on and around of full moon Day of Wagaung in Myanmar Calendar. The festival is unlike any other pagoda festivals in Bagan. People from all around of Bagan come to this festival garbed in all sorts of animal or human figures made of paper. The competitors wearing these paper-made figures dance to the captivating music and compete with each other troop for the Prize of the best dancing Figure. The spectators who come to watch this unique festival will surely be exposed to an extravagant of music dance and traditional culture. (Festival falls on 26th & 27th August in 2018.)

Lawka Nanda Pagoda Festival (Bagan)

It is located on the bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River in New Bagan. It was built in 1059 during the reign of King Anawrahta. It contains a replica of a Buddha tooth relic from Sri Lanka. The Pagoda celebrates its own festival in “Wagaung” in Myanmar Calendar. The Pagoda festival mall features: selling local products of the neighbor-hood, clothing, household utensils, pots & pans, agricultural tools & equipment’s, earthen-wares, big glazed jars, toys, traditional delicacies, food stalls and vendors. (Festival Dates: 18th & 19th August in 2018.)

“ October ”

Fire Lamp Floating Festival (Shwe-kyin, Bago Division)

In Myanmar, different regions celebrate Thadingyut in accordance with their respective rituals and traditions. Shwe Kyin -a small town in Bago Division celebrates Thadingyut inimitably. People from these area commemorate so called Festival of Fire Lamp Floating ; believing that their sins will be wipe away on the religious occasion of Thadingyut. It’s been 158 years that Shwe Kyin has been keeping that tradition. The festival also features Kayin traditional dance troops and festival mall. (Full moon Day of Thadingyut in 2017: 5th October, 2017.)

Kyauk-Se Elephant Dance Festival ( Kyauk-Se, near Mandalay)

Kyaukse is a small town in Mandalay Region in Myanmar. It is located 63 km, about 1 hour drive from Mandalay. It is famous for its Elephant Dance. This unique traditional Elephant dance festival usually starts one day before the Full Moon Day of “Thadingyut” in Myanmar Calendar and on the Full Moon Day. On the first day, colorfully decorated elephant figures made of cloth and bamboo with two men inside compete in dance competitions. The elephant with the best dance performance and behaviors wins the gold award. Food and flowers are offered to the pagoda on the second day. (Full moon Day of Thadingyut in 2017: 5th October, 2017.)

Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock) Festival

The impressive Golden Rock Pagoda in Kyaikhtiyo, celebrates its festival starting from the full moon day of Thadingyut as soon as Buddhist Lent is over. Evening time event features; celebrating Ceremony of nine thousand oil-lit Offering to the Lord Buddha on the Pagoda platform. From then on the Pagoda is constantly thronged by the local pilgrims until next monsoon comes. It is most crowded on the full moon days of Lighting Festivals and other full moon days of each month. (Full moon Day of October in 2017: 5th October, & Full moon Day of Tazaungmone in 2017: 3rd November.)

Thadingyut Festival (The Lighting Festival) Nation Wide

In celebration of the end of Buddhist lent, which falls on the full moon day of “Thadingyut” in Myanmar calendar. It celebrates the descent of the Buddha from heaven after he preached the Abidhamma to his mother who was reborn in heaven. On or around the festival the custom of paying homage to elders and respectful persons is followed. Evening time event features, the buildings, houses, and streets are decorated with lights, candles or paper lanterns. Street performance can be seen on the occasion. (Full moon Day of Thadingyut in 2017: 5th October, 2017.)

Inle Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake)

The famous Temple celebrates its festival in October. The five sacred Buddha Images are carried on the decorated Royal Barge and taken around the floating villages in festive procession. This fascinating event which involves music, dances and traditional leg-rowing boat races on the Inle Lake, crew by both men and women teams are the highlights of the celebration featuring all the fun of the fair. The celebrations continue for more than 20 days as four out of five revered Buddha images are paraded around the lake in an elaborate, gilded barge pulled by traditional long boats manned by hundreds of rowers. The locals involved in pulling the barge row in a unique fashion with their legs, a method designed to aid endurance. Throughout the festival rowing competitions are held, which makes for a wonderfully visual spectacle. Pilgrims from all over the country come to this festival to pay homage to the four Buddha images and gain merit whilst enjoying the festive air of the event. Over the years these images have become so embalmed by gold leaf that it is difficult to recognize them. The mysterious fifth Buddha image is left to ‘guard’ their original resting place at the Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda whilst the festival takes place. (Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival: starts from 21st September until 8thOctober, 2017)(Boat Racing Competitions: -27th September & 8th October, 2017).

“ November ”

Shwezigon Pagoda Festival (Bagan)

One of the top most famous and sacred temples in Bagan; the pagoda was built by King Anawrahta and completed by King Kyansittha in 1102 AD. It is located in Nyaung Oo. The pagoda is believed to enshrine a bone and tooth of Lord Gautama Buddha. The well-known stone pillar of King Kyansittha inscribed in Mon language lies in the compound of the Shwezigon Pagoda. The pagoda festival is annually held on and around of the Full moon Day of Tazaungmone and thronged by thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from all over the country. The Festival Mall features selling local products of the neighbor-hood, Lacquer ware, glazed pots , household utensils, pots & pans, agricultural tools & equipment’s, hand woven cotton blankets ,food stalls as well as entertainments.(Festival starts from the Full moon Day of 3rd November to 12th November in 2017.)

Hot air balloons Festival (Pyin Oo Lwin)

Pyin Oo Lwin is known as a hill station, with over 1,100 meters in elevation just 69 km to the East of Mandalay. The scenic hill station enjoys cool and pleasant weather the whole year round. On and around the Full moon Day of Tazaungmone (the Second Lighting Festival of Myanmar), the hill station celebrates its own hot air-balloons Festival started in the recent years. Hot air balloons are launched during the nights. (Festival starts from 30th October until 3rd November, 2017.)

Hot air balloons Festival (Taunggyi)

The Festival of Tazaungmone in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State is the most crowded and colorful in upper Myanmar. Evening time, event features, candle-lit processions accompanied by traditional Shan and Pa-Oo dance and music , hot air balloons are launched during the days and nights.(Festival starts from 25th October until 3rd November,2017.)

Kahtain Yellow Robe Offering Ceremony (Nation Wide)

The festival of Tazaungmone is associated with the offering of the new yellow robe to the Buddhist monks .It is held with high esteem in religious traditions. Not only yellow robes but also other utensils are offered to the monks who stayed in the monasteries during the period of lent and feasts are held in Monasteries. The festival features; weaving contest of non-stale robes; they are woven only during the night. So that the robes to be offered, world be ready at dawn. (Such contests are held at famous Pagodas such as Shwedagon & Botahtaung Pagodas in Yangon and Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago.) (The Full moon day of Tazaungmone in 2017: 3rd November, 2017.)

Ta-Zaung Dine Festival (The Second Lighting Festival) (Nation Wide)

Ta Zaung Dine Festival falls on the full moon day of Tazaungmone in Myanmar calendar. The celebration is held to commemorate the offering of lights to the “Sulamani Pagoda” which is at the abode of celestial beings. Evening time event features; hot air balloon of paper lanterns are released to pay homage to this heavenly Pagoda. Many public buildings, houses and streets are lit in a spectacular fashion. Food stalls are lined up on the road-sides and shows can be seen at different parts of the towns and cities. (The Full moon day of Tazaungmone in 2017: 3rd November, 2017.)

“ December ”

Christmas & New Year (Nation Wide)

Many visitors frequently ask “Do Myanmar people celebrate Christmas & New Year?” Yeah, of cause. Christmas is celebrated by the Christian community nationwide; especially among the Hill Tribes where the Christianity spread earlier than Buddhism in these regions; Chin Hill, Kachin Sate, Karen State ,etc. New Year Eve is celebrated by the city dwellers at the mid-night as the kind of International act.

Karen New Year Day

Karen, one of the major national races in Myanmar celebrates their New Year Day which ties into their harvest cycle in Karen State which located southern part of Myanmar. Wearing traditional costumes, the Karen observe this occasion with folk dance and song, Miss beauty and fashion contests .The most exciting part of the Festival is you will experience the famous Myanmar Traditional Boxing sport competitions at the every corner of their capital Pa-An.(Karen New Year Day falls on 18thDecember,2017.)

PhaungdawOo Pagoda Alms Offering Ceremony

Alms offering Ceremony to the Buddhist monks takes place at PhaungdawOo Pagoda Platform on December 14th, 2016. Ceremony features offering Bowls of alms filled with crops to Buddhist monks in a long line who depart from their various monasteries to gather the alms around the PhaungdawOo Pagoda platform. (Ceremony on 11th November, 2017.)

Alodawpyae Pagoda Festival

Alo-daw Pyae Pagoda literally means “Wish-fulfilling Pagoda” and many Buddhists come to pray at this temple to come true their wishes. Alo-daw Pyae Pagoda is a principal temple in a cluster of pagodas on the northern side of Anawrahta Road. A spiral stair leads to upper terraces, with sloping roofs and perforated windows the temple is one of the earliest Bagan temples belongs to the 11th century A.D. It has Mon writings. Alo-daw Pyae Pagoda Festival holds in the month of December annually. The pilgrims far and near come to take part in the festival as well as many monks from nearby villages of Bagan come to accept the offerings from the donors during the festival time.(Festival starts from 28th November until 8th December in 2017.)