Myanmar Festivals

Experience a local festival on your next Myanmar holiday!

Myanmar’s calendar is full of festivals. Seemingly every week, there is festive celebration or a cultural event of some description.  Which is good news for travelers- during your Myanmar holiday you are almost certain to experience a festival of some kind! 

The main festivals are based on the lunar calendar, with a country-wide celebration happening each monthly full moon. Most small pagodas each have their own festival which is cause for occasion in rural villages. While larger pagodas, like Phaung Daw Oo on Inle Lake, have massive, multi-day celebrations.

Each festival varies slightly in the way it is celebrated, but the common elements of any Myanmar festival are crowds, color, music and food! Visitors are always welcome, especially international tourists, so if you see a festival during your Myanmar holiday do not hesitate- go join in!

Here is a list of the top 5 Myanmar festivals: when they are, what they are all about and how to celebrate!

ANANDA PAYA FESTIVAL (JANUARY)- Bagan is at its busiest and most vibrant during the Ananda Paya Festival. Held at the pagoda of the same name, this festival brings pilgrims from all over the country who come to pay homage to the pagoda which is said to represent Buddha’s endless wisdom. In addition to the Buddhist ceremonies, the festival attracts vendors who set up stalls selling food, games, toys and more. It is a lively affair that goes on 24-hours a day for the course of a month. While the festival is a memorable one, it is also noisy! If you are scheduling your Myanmar holiday during this time we suggest to avoid staying near the festival site and choosing a hotel in New Bagan or Nyaung U for a quieter night sleep.

NAGA FESTIVAL (JANUARY)- The Naga are one of Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups, with a very distinctive set of customs, dialects and culture.  They live in the rugged, remote Naga State and their annual new year, in January, is a three-day festival where the various sub-tribes gather to celebrate their culture.  Nearly 50 clans gather in their traditional costumes and perform dances, play music and participate in friendly competitions.  The festival changes location within the Naga State each year and visitor numbers are limited, so advance planning is required if you want to include Naga Festival in your Myanmar journey.

THINGYAN (APRIL)- This week-long celebration marks the local new year and is the most important festival on the calendar.  Thingyan is one of the most solemn religious occasions and also the rowdiest of all the festivals! Buddhists make offerings and often enter meditation centers to usher in the start of the year. It is also common to see noviation ceremonies during Thingyan, the time when young boys join the monkhood for a short period of time.  The more ‘festive’ side of Thingyan takes shape out on the streets, where stages line the roads. On these stages, traditional song and dance are performed from morning to night and water is thrown to signify the ‘washing away’ of sins from the previous year. So as revelers walk or drive from stage to stage to enjoy the performances, water is being thrown everywhere often by water pistol or hoses. These days many of the stages feature modern music and DJs and although the crowds often get rowdy, they remain friendly and welcoming. Thingyan is a fun experience for travelers, however many sites and restaurants are closed so please discuss with your travel consultant before booking a Myanmar holiday during April.

PHAUNG DAW OO FESTIVAL (SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER)- This 3-week long festival takes place at Inle Lake. During the celebration, the five sacred Buddha images from Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda are carried by barge around the lake from village to village. Song, dance and other festivities are held as the barge proceeds across the water. One of the highlights of Phaung Daw Oo festival is boat racing, when dozens of participants stand in long tail boats and use their legs to row the boats forward. The festival is held in September or October, depending on the lunar calendar and is well worth visiting during your Myanmar holiday.

THADINYUNT (OCTOBER)- Thadingyut celebrates the end of the Buddhist Lent and is celebrated on the full moon day. During the festival, Buddhists pay homage to monks, teachers and elders as well as make offerings at pagodas, in return for forgiveness for any mistakes made in the past year. At homes, pagodas and on the streets, candles and small lanterns are lit, thus earning it the nickname ‘Lighting Festival’. There are also street carnivals in big cities with Ferris wheels, games, food stalls and even pop-up tattoo parlors!  In smaller towns there will still celebrations on a lesser scale, with perhaps some music and dance as well as games being played.

There are many more Myanmar festivals to discover! To start planning your Myanmar holiday, send us an email ([email protected]) or call us on 09 269869090.

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