Festivals are an important part of Burmese culture. You can find a village that’s putting on a festival nearly every month. Most of these festivals involve some type of public performance and dance, and take place somewhere near a pagoda.
This is a list of the official, government holidays, as well as a selection of some of the more popular local festivals. Keep in mind that many of these festivals occur on a different day each year, depending on the Myanmar calendar, which is based on lunar months. Also, this isn’t an all-inclusive list — there are simply too many to mention. Ask your travel expert before you go if there are any festivals you should look out for on your travels.
January 4 Independence Day
At the time they declared independence, the British had ruled Burma for 60 years. General Aung San signed the Panglong Agreement, which made it possible for independent states to govern themselves. After signing the agreement, General Aung San was assassinated. Myanmar won its independence from Britain in 1948.
Decorations are particularly loud and colorful in the capital city of Naypyidaw. Celebrants where traditional clothes, including longyi skirts. Citizens gather in the streets to play traditional games, including the intricate hackeysack like game called chinlone.
The date of Independence Day changes every year, according to the 10th full moon after Tazaungmone, Myanmar’s full moon festival.
February 12th Union Day
February 12th marks the signing of the Panglong Agreement in 1947. This agreement was supposed to unite Myanmar’s ethnicities and stipulate their independence.
On Union Day, Myanmar’s different groups hold celebrations that demonstrate the distinct culture of each of Myanmar’s states.
March 2nd Peasant’s Day
Peasant’s Day is a public holiday. In the past, the president would have invited peasant leaders to speak at the president’s house. But these days, it’s just a day off.
March 2 also marks the anniversary of General Ne Win’s coup in 1962, which started the military’s authoritarian rule. You can read more about General Ne Win in our History travel guide.
Pindaya Cave Festival
This is a festival held primarily by the Shan people. Vendors sell Shan handicrafts near the mouth of the cave, and celebrants arrive wearing traditional costumes.
March 27 Myanmar Armed Forces Day
This day commemorates the Myanmar resistance of the Japanese during World War II. Myanmar Armed Forces Day is mostly a military celebration, and the ceremonies take place in the capital city of Naypyidaw.
Shwedagon Pagoda Festival
The Shwedegon Pagoda is Myanmar’s most significant Buddhist Site and most popular national monument. It is also one of the oldest pagodas in the world. Out of all the pagoda festivals, the one dedicated to Shwedagon is the largest. Travelers come from all over the world to the festival, and to see the gold stupa lit up at night. April
April 13 to April 17
Myanmar New Year Holidays
Burmese people celebrate the New Year with ceremonies that revolve around water. People (especially children) splash water on everyone, except the elderly and monks. Celebrants also engage in ceremonial hair washing. Traditionally hair is the most sacred part of the body, so during New Year celebrations you’ll see makeshift hair washing stations built from bamboo.
This is the time of year when King Thagyamin is said to visit the earth. King Thagyamin is king of the nats — the old gods from Myanmar’s indigenous religion.
May 1 — Worker’s Day
May 1 is a government holiday an important day in every Communist country. It celebrates the workers that make up the backbone of Communist society.
May 10 — Full Moon Day of Kason
This holiday marks the anniversary of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.
It is also the anniversary of the day the third Buddha predicted that a hermit named Thumaydhar would become the fourth Buddha. In other countries, this holiday is called Vesak.
On Full Moon Day, Burmese people are especially attentive to monks. They make pilgrimages to offer alms and new robes.
May is known as the water-pouring month. Kason comes from the word kusone — “ku” means water and “sone” means pouring. People gather in pagodas to water Bodhi trees. May is one of the hottest months in Myanmar, and watering the Bodhi trees symbolizes preserving Buddhism for future generations.
July — August
July 19 Martyrs’ Day
This is the anniversary of the assassination of General Aung San by a rival political party in 1947. General Aung San founded the Communist Party of Burma and the Tatmadaw military. He was a beloved leader is the father of Myanmar’s current leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Vassa — commonly known as “Buddhist Lent”— begins in July and lasts until October. Monks refrain from travel during Vassa, and many Buddhists take this time to go on a retreat and practice intense meditation.
Taungbyone Nat Pwe
Sometime between July and August (during the rainy season) Taungbyone Nat Pwe takes place near Mandalay. This is an enormous and raucous festival that celebrates the nats, which are indigenous gods that pre-date Buddhism.
This is one of the most popular festivals in Myanmar. It marks the end of Vassa.
Thadingyut is also known as the “festival of lights.” To celebrate this holiday, people attach decorative lights to pagodas and public buildings. This is also the time when people seek atonement for their wrongdoings, and ask for forgiveness from monks and any other relevant authority figures.
November thru December
During these holidays, the Weaving Festival takes place in Yangon. Unmarried girls compete for the honor of weaving new robes for monks, which they present at the Shwedagon Pagoda.
This day takes place in either November or December. It marks the anniversary of the student protest at Yangon University in 1920.
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