Burma (since 1998 also called Myanmar) is known and even famous for many things. Oddly enough, there is one thing that Burma and the Burmese are generally not known for, and that is festivals and celebrations, although Burma could justifiably be called the country of festivals.
The Burmese festival calendar is packed with regional and national occasions to celebrate. I find it difficult to say where this has its origin; in events that are worthy of being celebrated or simply the desire of the Burmese people to celebrate and subsequently find suitable occasions that give sufficient reason to do so. Regardless of which comes first, the fact is that every time there’s a full moon, it’s party time in Burma. Both religious and cultural festivals take place throughout the year and throughout the country. And most festivals are long, enjoyable affairs here.
The prevailing spirit of the respective festival varies according to the nature of the occasion, from something frivolous during ‘Thingyan’ or ‘Water Festival’, the ‘Burmese New Year’ which is celebrated in the Burmese month of ‘Tagu’ (March/April) to something more solemn on full moons like the ‘Kason Full Moon’ in the first week of May, the ‘Waso Full Moon’ in July and the ‘Wagaung Full Moon’ in August, to definitely rejoice when the ‘Full Moon’ -Thadingyut’ moon in the Burmese month of Thadingyut (September/October) has arrived and the ‘Festival of Lights’ (which marks the end of Buddhist Lent and monsoon season) is celebrated as well as the four weeks following the ‘Tazaungmon Full Moon’ (October/November) when people celebrate ‘Tazaungdine Festival’.
In addition to the many festivals held nationally, there are also numerous festivals held locally. For example, Thingyan, the Burmese water festival, is celebrated throughout the country, but there are also other ethnic and religious minority New Year’s festivals. These are the Christian New Year (December/January), the Chinese New Year (February), the Karen New Year (January) and the purely locally celebrated Naga ‘Kaing Bi’ New Year (January). The festive calendar also includes other Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, the Hindu festival ‘Dewali’ in October, the Islamic ‘Bakri Idd’ at the end of November and many other festivals celebrated by minority groups.
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Festivals, Pagoda Festivals, Temple Festivals, Weaving Festivals, Harvest Festivals, National Festivals; festivals and celebrations at the end. Happiness and smiling faces are everywhere. An atmosphere of joy invades the entire country. That’s one of the many lovable aspects of Burma. At this point, I consider it important to draw your attention to the great difficulty, often even impossible, of separating historical facts from the great mass of myths and legends. This is particularly true when it comes to e.g. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and his life play an important role in the context that most Burmese festivals have their roots in Buddhism (Theravada Buddhism, to be precise) and that about 86% of Burmese are Buddhist.