During your trip, you can attend many of the popular festivals in Myanmar, the majority of which are based on historical or political origins, as well as religious beliefs. This country has lived through all kinds of events, and they mark its main festivals.
In order to talk about the popular festivals celebrated in Myanmar, we first need to be aware that this is a country with 135 different races. This may give you an idea of the multicultural nature and variety of the festivals that take place during the year.
However, let’s look at the main events in Myanmar that take place every month so that you can note them down in your diary when planning your trip.
January - Independence Day
During January, the Burmese celebrate their Independence Day with large parades and official activities. Their release from the British colonial regime took place in 1948 and, since then, the country has experienced a number of different events.
February - Union Day
Another popular festival in Myanmar that relates to politics is celebrated on 12 February: this is Union Day. The day commemorates the anniversary of a historical meeting which took place in 1947 and which led to the signing of the Panglong Agreement.
March - Day of the Peasant
We continue with festivities of a political nature in Myanmar with the day of the Peasant. This celebration commemorates the anniversary of Ne Win, a revolutionary who led a coup d’etat against the State in 1962. Although it may appear strange to celebrate a coup d’etat, one should understand the continuous revolutions and the country’s political paradox.
Also in March, on the 7th to be precise, the Burmese celebrate an important Buddhist festival which is also celebrated in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos: The Full Moon of Tabaung.
April - Burmese New Year
If you are in Myanmar during April, you can attend one of its most lively popular festivals, the Maha Thingyan, or water festival. This festival celebrates the Burmese New Year, where participants throw water over each other in celebration, with parades and traditional dances also taking place.
May - birth of Buddha
On 6 May one of the most beautiful events in Myanmar takes place: the Full Moon of Kason, or the anniversary of the birth of Buddha. This celebration also takes place in other parts of the world. Worshippers decorate statues of Buddha and take offerings to the temples, special ceremonies are organised and good deeds are done within the community.
June and July - Buddhist Lent
During the summer months, there are other Buddhist celebrations, like the Full Moon of Waso, or the Buddhist Lent. The temples are once more the scene for numerous pilgrimages and offerings. The worshippers meditate and pray in their search for personal enlightenment and an improvement in their lives.
In contrast, and far from religion, on 19 July the Day of the Martyr is celebrated to commemorate the assassination of the revolutionary Aung San who fought for the liberation of the country in 1947.
August - Burmese
During August, the Burmese dedicate themselves to winning favours during the month’s Wagaung full moon. Through carrying out good deeds, such as giving alms or helping their neighbours, they prepare for the end of Lent.
September and October - end of Buddhist Lent
During these months the popular festivals of Myanmar focus on the country’s Buddhist tradition. The Full Moon of Thadingyut is the celebration that marks the end of Buddhist Lent and brings with it a great celebration with abundant traditional food which has been blessed by the monks.
November - Fire Balloon
The month of November ends with the festival of the Full Moon of Tasaungmon, which in the Buddhist calendar marks the end of the rains. Agricultural labourers celebrate the new moon with traditional dances and offerings to the main temples.
Also in November you can enjoy one of the most spectacular Myanmar festivals: the Festival of the Fire Balloon. You need to travel to Taunggyi to experience this three-day festival from close-up. You will see how the Burmese release enormous balloons shaped like animals among fireworks displays.
December - Ananda Pahto Festival
Apart from Christmas, which is celebrated by the Christian minority within the country, on 8 December the Burmese have a national celebration commemorating the first University Strike.
Also in December, the New Year celebrations take place for diverse Burmese ethnic groups. The Shan population celebrate the beginning of the year with traditional dances, live music and an abundance of food and drink.
Lastly, in Bagan, between December and January, one of the most impressive Buddhist festivities in Myanmar takes place: the Ananda Pahto Festival. The monks recite the holy scriptures without stopping for three days. This is a complete display of religious fervour which is a must-see.
As you can see, this Asian country flows to the rhythm of the Buddhist celebrations and the historic events which have shaped it. Make a note of the most significant dates in your diary so that you don’t miss anything.