Myanmar Festivals & Events

January

Ananda Pagoda Festival

Date : Full moon day of Pyatho to 15th Waxing of Pyatho
Location : Bagan
Duration : 15 Days

This is the biggest and most important pagoda festival in central and upper Myanmar. Villagers come in caravans of covered ox-carts and camp out for the duration of this country fair. The Full moon day of the Myanmar month of Pyatho marks the height of the celebrations with one thousand monks from a hundred village in the vicinity arriving to accept offerings of filled alms bowls.

Naga New Year Festival

Date : Usually January 14 to 16
Location : Either Lahe or Layshi, Sagaing Region
Duration : 3 Days

The Naga national race comprises many different tribes with their own languages and culture. They meet once a year to sing, dance and feast, dressed in traditional costumes.

February

Maha Muni Pagoda Festival

Date : 14th Waxing and Full moon day of Tabodwe
Location : Mandalay
Duration : 2 Days

February is the coldest month in Myanmar and at the Maha Muni Pagoda Festival, devotes light bonfires and cook huge pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut and sesame to offer to monks. In other parts of the country this sticky rice is cooked as a celebration of the harvest and distributed within communities.

Sticky Rice Cooking or Hta-Ma-Ne Festival

Date : Anytime during Tabodwe
Location : Throughout the country

To celebrate the harvest, communities and organizations cook giant pans of sticky rice with ginger, coconut, peanuts and lots of sesame which is wrapped in banana leaves and given to neighbours and friends.

Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival

Date : Begin 5th Waxing Moon Dayof Tabodwe
Location : Shwe Settaw, Magwe Region, Central Myanmar
Duration : 11 Days but this holiday site remains open until April

The festival is celebrated at two pagodas which enshrine footprints of the Buddha, The site is on the bank of the Mann Creek, where bamboo cabins are erected every year for revelers to enjoy a cool swim during the heat of summer.

Kyaik Khaut Pagoda Festival

Date : 8th Waxing Moon Day of Tabodwe
Location : Thanlyin , near Yangon
Duration : 10 Days

The nearest pagoda festival of this size closest to Yangon, just 30 minutes away by car. A free traditional puppet show is always part of the festivities.

March

Ko Gyi Kyaw Spirit Festival

Date : 3rd Waxing Moon Day of Tabaung
Location : Pakhan, Yayza Gyo Township
Duration : 8 Days

Ko Gyi Kyaw is a happy spirit who loves to drink and gamble and see his workshippers sing, dance and be merry. He is the patron of gamblers. This annual festival in his honour is celebrated in his home town.

Kekku Pagoda Festival

Date : Begins 14th Waxing Moon Day of Tabaung
Location : Kekku ancient pagoda complex, near Taunggyi, Southern Shan State
Duration : 3 Days

There are more than 2000 pagodas in the Kekku Pagoda complex, built several centuries ago. It is in a valley surrounded by beautiful scenery. Usually deserted at other times, tens of thousands of members of the Pa-O, Shan and Danu national races arrive by foot or boat to celebrate this festival.

Pindaya Shwe Oo Min Pagoda Festival

Date : 11th Waxing Moon Day of Tabaung
Location : Pindaya, Southern Shan State
Duration : 8 Days

The Pindaya Caves are filled with thousands of Buddha images of antiquity, without any records of when they were enshrined and by whom. Every year pilgrims from throughout the country celebrate at this festival, which is also attended by the national races of the region.

Maw Tin Zun Pagoda Festival

Date : 1st Waxing Moon Day of Tabaung
Location : The Southwest coast of Myanmar
Duration : 10 Days

This is the only seaside pagoda festival of importance, Part of the route from Yangon is by a pleasant boat ride to Pathein, an interesting delta town famous for its pretty parasols.

April

Water Festival and Myanmar New Year

Date : Usually 13 to 17 April (New Year's Day)
Location : Throughout the country
Duration : 4 Days of throwing water and the last day

New Year, is devoted to doing good deeds in all towns and villages. During the water festival, people carry buckets or water pistols to douse anyone seen in public while the more sedate attend meditation sessions or keep the Buddhist precepts. Communities prepare sweets to give to passersby and at night, there is entertainment with songs and dancing by professional and amateur performers.

Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda Festival

Date : Begins day after New Year's Day
Location : Bago
Duration : 7 Days

Classical theatre troupes perform their best at this event in the hope of being booked by agents for the next pagoda festival season. With the advance money they make new costumes and settings and rehearse throughout the monsoon Buddhist Lent period.

May

Ritual of pouring water on the Bodhi Tree

Date : Full moon Day of Kason
Location : Pagodas throughout the country
Duration : 10 Days

This ritual commemorates the date more than 2500 years ago when the Buddha gained enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. Pilgrims pour water on the Bodhi trees in pagoda compounds to keep them fresh in the summer heat of May.

June

Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival

Date : 8th Waxing Moon Day of Nayon Location : Pakokku, central Myanmar Duration : 15 Days

This pagoda festival is the most important of its kind for all towns west of the Ayeyarwaddy and produce from the region, such as dried chilli, homespun baskets and tobacco are sold every year at this huge country fair.

July

Waso Festival

Date : Centred around the Full moon day of Waso
Location : Throughout the country

This festival commemorates the time when the Buddha gave first sermon, to five monks. Pilgrims throughout the country gather wild flowers to offer at pagodas, and offer new robes to monks. The Buddhist Lent period is from the Full moon of Waso until the Full moon of Thadingyut.

Caneball or "Chinlon" Competition

Date : Ends on the day after the Full Moon Day of Waso
Location : Maha Muni Pagoda compound, Mandalay
Duration : 7 Days

The competitions begins about a month before the last day but the last week features displays of the most skillful teams, which must pass a woven ball of cane around a circle of players without touching it with their hands. They use heads, shoulders, knees, elbows and heels. Points are given for grace and style. In chinlon, no team goes heads on with another in aggressive competition, unique in the world of sports.

August

Taung Pyone Spirit Festival

Date : 10th Waxing Moon Day of Wagaung
Location : Taung Pyone Village, near Mandalay
Duration : 12 Days

This festival in honour of two Nat (spirit) brothers, Min Gyi and Min Lay is attended by tens of thousands of mediums and worshippers. A different ritual is celebrated each day. Orchestras come to play for the mediums who dance to make the spirits joyful.

Yadana Gu Spirit Festival

Date : 10th Waxing Moon Day of Wagaung
Location : Amarapura, near Mandalay
Duration : 5 Days

This festival honours the mother of the two Nat brothers referred to above. She is the Goddess of Popa and her main shrine is on Popa Crest, near Bagan. She is a powerful spirit and protector of women.

September

Hpaung Daw Oo Pagaoda Festival

Date : 1st Waxing Moon Day of Thadingyut
Location : Inlay Lake, Southern Shan State
Duration : 18 Days

Four of the five images housed in the Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda are carried by a golden barge to villagers around Inlay Lake, where they spend the night. Their arrival is greeted with ceremonies and there is much rejoicing while the images are at the villages. Thousands of people from the communities around the Lake and villages in the surrounding mountains carry fruit and flowers and pay homage as the holy barge passes Teams of the Lake’s famous leg-rowers compete in annual boat races.

Shwezigon Pagoda Festival

Date : 1st Waxing Moon Day of Thadingyut
Location : Nyaung U, near Bagan
Duration : 15 Days

On the full moon day, there is a ritual of offering a filled alms bowl to a thousand and more monks and novices. Lacquerware, glazed pots and hand woven cotton blankets are sold by villagers living in the region at this country fair.

Manuha Pagoda Festival

Date : One day before the Full Moon Day of Tawthalin and Full Moon Day
Location : Myinkaba village, Bagan
Duration : 2 Days

On the first day, village girls dressed in their best parade with trays of fruit and cakes to offer at the pagoda. During the afternoon, young men parade larger-than-life papier mache figures they have made of heroes, celestials being and animals. At night, they put on dances and plays. The next morning at dawn they offer food at the shrine and also to the monks.

October

Festival of Light

Date : One day before the Full moon Day of Thandingyut, the Full moon day and the next day
Location : Throughout the country.
Duration : 3 Days

This festival commemorates the time when the Buddha returned to earth after preaching in the abode of celestials during the three months of Lent.He descended at night and devotees greeted Him with lamps and lanterns. People decorate their houses with candles and colour canters to symbolize this event. The Festival of Light marks the end of Lent.

Dancing Elephants Festival

Date : One day before the Full moon day of Thadingyut and the full moon day
Location : Kyaukse, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Mandalay
Duration : 2 Days

On the first day, colourfully decorated cloth elephants with two men inside compete in dance competitions. The ‘elephants’ with the best dance performance and behavior wins the gold, food and flowers are offered to the pagoda on the second day.

Kyaut Taw Gyi Pagoda Festival

Date : Begins one day before the full moon day of Thadinyut
Location : Mandalay
Duration : 4 Days

The festival coincides with an annual competition among teams of cane-bal (chinlon) players, This sport of keeping a rattan ball off the ground without using the hands is not about one side winning and the other losing and is surely the only sport in the world with such a concept.

November

Kahtien Ritual Offerings

Date : After the end of Lent on the Full moon day of Thadingyut
Location : Throughout the country
Duration : Month

Sets of new robes and other offerings such as slippers, umbrellas, alms bowls, food, towels, soap and other necessities are presented to monks. Cash offerings for monasteries are also collected and displayed on wooden frames built in the shape of a tree. New cash notes are folded into bird and flower shapes.

Hot Air Balloon Festival

Date : 10th Waxing Moon Day of Tazaungmon
Location : Taunggyi, southern Shan State
Duration : 5 Days

The daytime competitions are for balloons made in animals or bird shapes. At night fire balloons are decorated with strings of lanterns or designs made of lights. On the night of the full moon, Taunggyi townsfolk hold a parade around the town carrying colourful lanterns.

All Night Robe Weaving Contests

Date : Begins the evening before the full moon day
Location : Shwedagon Pgoda, Yangon and other pagodas throughout the country
Duration : The whole night

On the evening before the full moon day, teams of weavers compete to finish a monk’s robe during the night, to be offered to images at dawn the next day. It is a major event at the Shwedagon Pagoda. This ritual was once practiced in the palace during the time of monarchy and in villages.

December

Popa Guardian Spirits Festival

Date : Begin Full moon Day of Nadaw
Location : Mount Popa, near Bagan
Duration : 6 Days

The two spirit figures on either side of the Tharaba Gate at Bagan are the brother and sister spirits Lord of the Mountain and the lady golden face who protect home or country. A festival takes place at Mount Popa in their honour.

KyaikHtiYo "Gloden Rock" Pagoda Nine Thousand Lamps

Date : Evening of December 31
Location : Kyaikhtiyo "Gloden Rock" Pagoda, Mon State
Duration : One evening

On the platform of the Kyakhtiyo “Golden Rock” Pagoda devotes light nine thousand lamps to welcome the New Year and to give thanks to Buddha’s peaceful philosophy. The magical Golden Rock Pagoda, a golden spire, sits on top a huge boulder covered with gold leaf and perched on the edge of a cliff.