Myanmar’s Season of Festivals
Many traditional Myanmar festivals celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent, the annual three-month retreat lasts from July to October. As monks don’t travel and study Buddhist doctrine, many Buddhists abstain from eating meat, drinking, and other ‘vices’.
These community festivals are fun gatherings that often combine games, funfairs, shopping, and, of course, food. Many towns around the country organize performances, known locally as pew, which are fantastic spectacles to watch. They blend slapstick comedy, singing, and dancing together, often going on late into the night.
Other festivals have become huge events with competitions amongst local hamlets, such as building the biggest papier-mâché hot air balloon, or having the best dancing elephant costume.
As many local tourists travel during Thadingyut and Thazaungdine public holidays, public buses, domestic flights, and hotels quickly fill up, so make sure you plan ahead if you’re traveling at these times. Here is a list of upcoming festivals around the country:
Myanmar, Inle Lake – September to October
A spectacular festival with boats having 50 to 60 rowers. They pull a barge with sacred Buddhist relics from one village to another on the lake. We recommend hiring a private boat and asking the boatman where the procession will be going: so, you can get ahead and take some great photos. Plan to stay a couple of days on Inle Lake to make sure you don’t miss the event, as there is sometimes a ‘rest day’.
DANCING ELEPHANT FESTIVAL
Myanmar, Kyaukse – October
No real elephants are used! At Kyaukse, about a three-hour drive from Bagan, big papier-mâché elephant costumes are made. Two men don the elephant costume and perform acrobatic dances along the streets of Kyaukse. This is a great festival to experience village life in Myanmar, as locals enjoy the performance.
THADINGYUT (FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS)
Myanmar, Nationwide – October
At the end of the Buddhist Lent, sons and daughters pay respect to parents, teachers, and the elderly. On the day of the full moon (often the middle of October), houses and pagodas are lit with candles. If you’re in Myanmar on this day, light a candle near your hotel and walk around the city in the evening. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is particularly magical and radiant.
SHINPIN SAGYO PAGODA FESTIVAL
Myanmar, Salay – October
The Shinpin Sagyo Pagoda festival in Salay (1.5 hours’ drive from Bagan) is celebrated twice a year (also in July) during which thousands of pilgrims from different villages participate in offering alms to temple monks. You can also visit Salay market where local vendors sell snacks, seasonal fruits, and goods.
SHWEZIGON PAGODA FESTIVAL
Myanmar, Bagan – October to November
At the heart of Bagan, this festival attracts thousands of villagers to the golden Shwezigon Pagoda. A procession with hundreds of monks collecting alms and giving blessings celebrates the full moon day of Thazaungdine.
TAUNGGYI BALLOON FESTIVAL
Myanmar, Taunggyi – November
Taunggyi is famous for its Thazaungdine celebrations: giant papier-mâché hot air balloons are launched from the packed festival grounds in Taunggyi. The day time is especially fun for families, as it is usually not so busy. Once the balloon reaches a height of about 20 meters, the fireworks attached to the balloons are set off in all directions. Stay till 9.00 or 10.00 pm to see all of the balloons lit up with candles and fireworks. This is a fun and spectacular sight to witness if you’re around Inle Lake.
THAZAUNGDINE (FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS)
Myanmar, Nationwide – November
This auspicious time has Buddhists offering new saffron robes – and many other accessories – to monks around the country. Prior to these celebrations, you will see bamboo poles adorned with donations, including banknotes folded into beautiful shapes. On the evening of these festivals, lanterns are launched throughout the country and most temples organize local games and competitions.
For bookings and more information on Myanmar festivals, get in touch with us at: [email protected].