A tourist New Year’s resolution: join the Myanmar New Year and travel to the year 1379
Theodore Koumelis – 29 December 2016, 00:05
Some people can’t wait the year 2016 to be over, for many Burmese that is still over 600 years from now. While the Western World will celebrate its Gregorian New Year in a few days, Myanmar is just beginning the countdown to Thingyan – traditional festival annually marking Myanmar’s New Year. On 2 Jan 2017 it’s exactly 100 nights of sleep till we reach the year 1379.
YANGON – Life and work slows down in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, in the beginning of April. The summer is in its peak and people stay in the shade, go to the beaches to cool down or to get ready for the country’s longest holidays and the biggest festivals. An excellent period for tourists to visit Myanmar and join the fun!
Thingyan, which means “transit [of the Sun from Pisces to Aries]” is the Burmese New Year Water Festival and usually falls around mid-April (the Burmese month of Tagu). It is a Buddhist festival celebrated over a period of four to five days, culminating in the New Year. The dates of the Thingyan Festival are calculated according to the Burmese calendar and fall mostly between 12 – 16 April.
The eve of Thingyan, the first day of the festival called a-kyo nei is the start of a variety of religious activities. Buddhists are expected to observe the Eight Precepts, more than the basic Five Precepts, including having only one meal before noon. Thingyan is a time when uposatha observance days, similar to the Christian sabbath, are held. Alms and offerings are laid before monks in their monasteries and offerings of a green coconut with its stalk intact encircled by bunches of green bananas and sprigs of thabyay (Syzygium cumini) before the Buddha images over which scented water is poured in a ceremonial washing from the head down.
The next days, the real fun begins with music, song and dance in anticipation of the water festival. In every neighbourhood pavilions made from bamboo and palm leaves have been built while others almost turn into big instant night clubs. Local belles have been rehearsing for weeks in the run-up to the great event in song and dance in chorus lines, each band of girls uniformly dressed in colourful tops and skirts and garlanded in flowers.
Water-throwing or dousing one another from any shape or form of vessel or device that delivers water is the distinguishing feature of this festival and may be done on the first four days of the festival daily from around 10:00 till 18:00. In major cities such as Yangon, garden hoses, huge firehoses or plastic water pistols and other devices from which water can be squirted are used in addition to the gentler bowls and cups! It is the hottest time of the year and a good dousing is welcomed by most.
For any fun loving tourist, families and youngster this is certainly one of the best periods of the year to visit Myanmar. The water party is all around the country yet you will be spared a bit if you indicate you prefer to go for the temple sightseeing.
“I’ve seen Songkran in Thailand and the traditional New Year’s celebrations in Cambodia and Laos, but I’ve never experienced festival as big as the one in Myanmar. While in neighboring countries people buy plastic guns to sprinkle water, Myanmar employs fire trucks and hoses!” – said an enthusiastic tourist from Germany who visited Myanmar in April 2016.
Thingyan is a great time to visit Myanmar to see the best of its traditional culture combined with a modern day celebrations at the grandest of scales. As it’s the longest and most important holidays in the country, local people use it to travel all over the country. It’s worth planning ahead. Myanmar Tourism Marketing is planning toorganize a booth for tourists to join the fun in Yangon from 12 – 16 April 2017, please do contact for more information on ticket sales etc.