Happy Burmese New Year!

Shwedagon Pagoda, (photo by Corrie Wingate)
Shwedagon Pagoda

This year, Burmese New Year starts on 13th April. Myanmar’s traditional year is based on a 12-month lunar calendar, and this determines the dates of festivals and Buddhist holidays, beginning with Thingyan, the Burmese New Year. 


The hot season from March to April brings Thingyan (“changing over”) water festival, Myanmar’s biggest party, marking the traditional New Year’s Day held at full moon during the lunar month of Tagu. The festival goes on for three or four days, the length of the celebration determined by ponna or Brahman astrologers. Water is poured from delicate silver vessels, sprayed from water pistols, hurled from buckets, and even blasted from fire hydrants to wash away the old year and welcome the new. The drenching stops each day at 6.30pm, and is followed by an evening of feasting and partying. For the duration of the festival, government buildings and businesses are closed.

Pandals – pavilions or stages made from bamboo and beautifully decorated with flowers and papier mâché – are erected in which lines of garlanded girls dressed in identical suits of colourful material perform carefully rehearsed song and dance routines while boys douse them with water. More overtly suggestive versions spring up in the liberal, upper-class neighbourhoods of Yangon, where hot pants, crop tops and Western-style dancing replace the traditional elegance.

Thingyan also celebrates the descent to earth of Thagyamin, the king of the 37 nat, to bring blessings for the new year. He brings two books with him: one bound in gold to record the names of children who have been well behaved in the past year, and one bound in dog skin to record the names of any naughty children. Thagyamin rides a winged golden horse and bears a water jar, symbolic of peace and prosperity. Households greet Thagyamin with flowers and palm leaves at the front door. Guns are fired and music is played in salute. Gaily decorated floats parade up and down the streets of the cities and larger towns. But there are also moments of tranquillity in the midst of this exuberance. Most revellers find time to make offerings at pagodas and at the homes of their elders, and Buddha images are washed by the devout.

hnit thit ku mingalar pa – Happy New Year!


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Other great Burma features include the best Buddhist monuments; unique cuisine, including breakfast Burmese style; and Longyi, the national costume...

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