New Year Festival of Burmese people

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Myanmar’s New Year is called Thingyan or Burmese New Year or Water festival and lasts from 13th – 17th April every year celebrated by Water Festival so different from what western tradition of celebrating new year.

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Myanmar’s traditional New Year Festival

If you travel to Myanmar during their New Year, you should know a little about their traditions and celebrations. They uses a 12-month lunar system to be their traditional calendar, based on which the dates of festivals and Buddhist holidays are determined.

Thingyan (“changing over”) Water Festival, Myanmar’s biggest party marking the traditional New Year’s Day, is held at full moon during the lunar month of Tagu. The festival goes on for three or four days, the length of the celebration is determined by ponnas 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.

Thingyan is the biggest festival in Myanmar (via Wikimedia Commons)

Cleansing for the New Year

During Myanmar Water Festival, and actually during the whole month of April, the prevalent spirit of the country and its people is happy and at ease. For four days before New Year’s Day the tradition claims that everybody in Myanmar shall splash water on one other in order to cleanse for the New Year. Myanmar’s Thingyan could be compared to Thailand’s Songkran. Both are New Year Festivals with lots of water splashing and both happen in April. Similar celebrations also take place in Laos and China.

Thingyan Water Festival, which has been celebrated for more than 500 years, is a festival deeply rooted in the Burmese people’s hearts and all of Burma’s citizens take part in the festivities.

A very wet festival

The tradition to splash water during the New Year celebrations exists in most Southeast Asian countries. In Myanmar, people believe that all the sins committed during the past year can be cleansed away with the water that’s thrown on them by their fellow citizens during Thingyan. All sins and disillusions are washed away from body, mind and soul and the New Year can start with a purified clean slate. Given that April is Burma’s hottest month, being splashed with water all days long is more a relief than a burden and any clothes will dry fast under the ruthless sun.

A very wet festival (via Pinterest)

During the Festival, small stages are set up along the streets of cities and small towns. On these are groups of students or representatives of the state armed with buckets full of water. When a vehicle or person passes in front of these stages they are drenched with water. It is an act of kindness and much appreciated by all. On the bigger stages traditional Myanmar Thingyan dancing shows are set up.

Thingyan traditions

During Thingyan the younger generation of Myanmar’s population will wash the hair of the elders as a sign of gratitude and respect. Provided that killing any living creature is considered a sinful act according to Myanmar’s religion,Theravada Buddhism, it is a custom to buy live fish and then release them in the open water of rivers or lakes on the last day of the Water Festival.

How the Burmese prepare to celebrate their New Year festival?

Thingyan Festival (via Wikimedia Commons)

During this festival, water is being thrown everywhere and on everyone, you’re by no means safe just because you’re a tourist. The Burmese people feel they are doing the tourists a great favour by splashing them with water and thereby purifying their souls.

The temperature in Myanmar at this time of year is mostly higher than 40C degrees so for most people getting wet is not much of an issue. Appropriate clothing during the Thingyan Water Festival is a hat, t-shirt, thin trousers, flip flops and a towel near at hand is quite handy. It is important to wrap all electronic equipment such as cameras, video cameras and mobile phones in plastic; otherwise they are likely to be destroyed.

It is very funny and relaxing after these days and you have an occasion to splash water onto people that you don’t have to afraid of annoying. This is a very special unique traditions of Southeast Asia that you really should come and experience!

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