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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS & SPECIAL EVENTS

      Traditionally Myanmar follows a 12 month lunar calendar, so the old holidays and festivals will vary in date, by the Gregorian calendar, from year to year. Myanmar also has a number of more recently originated holidays whose dates are fixed by the Gregorian calendar. Festivals are drawn-out, enjoyable affairs in Myanmar. They generally take place or culminate on full-moon days, but the build-up can continue for days. There's often a country-fair atmosphere about these festivals at some convenient grounds there will be innumerable stall and activitics that go on all night. Pwes, music and Burmese boxing bouts will all be part of the colourful scene. The normally calm Burmese can get really worked up during these festivals as a full-moon festival on one of our visits to Yangon the supporters of the defeated favourite in a boxing bout were so enraged they wrecked the arena, and subsequent bouts had to be cancelled.

January/Febuary
Independence Day
        Indenpendence Day on 4 January is a major public holiday marked by a seven day fair at Kandawgyi (Royal) Lake in Yaneon. Theare are fairs all over the country at this time.
Union Day
        Union Day on 12 Febuary celebrates Bogyoke Aung San's short-lived achievement of unifying Myanmar's disparate racial groups. For two weeks preceding Union Day, the national flag is paraded from town to town, and wherever the the flag rests there must be a festival.The month of Tabodwe culminates in a rice-harvesting festival on the new-moon day.Htamin (literally, rice), a special food-offering made and eaten at this time, consists of glutinous rice mixed with sesame, peanuts, shredded ginger and coconut. In villages large batches of htamin are cooked over open fires and stirred with big wooden paddles until they become a thick mass. after which the rice is wrapped in small banana-leaf parceis and distributed among all the members of the community.

Febuary/March
Shwedagon Festival
       The lunar month of Tabaung brings the annual Shwedagon Festival, the largest paya pwe (pagoda festival) in Myanmar. The full-moon day in Tabaung is also an auspicious occasion for the construction of new payas, and local paya festivals are held.
Peasants' Day/Armed Forces Day
       Two holidays fall during our month of March: 2 March is Peasant's Day,while 27 March is Resistance or Armed Foces Day, celebrated with parades and firework. Since 1989, the Tatmadaw has made it is tradition to pardon a number of prisoners on Armed Forces Day.

April/May
Buddha's Birthday
     The full-moon day of Kason is celebrated as the Buddha's birthday, the day of his enlightenment and the day he entered pibbana. Thus it known as the 'thrice blessed day'. The holiday is celebrated by the ceremonial watering of the trees, the sacred banyan tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. One of the be places to observe this ceremony is at Yangon Shwedagon Paya, where a procession of giant carry earthen jars to water the three banyan trees on the western side of the compound.
Water Festival
        Around the middle of April, the three day Thingyan (Water festival) starts the Burmese New Year. Thingyan, from the Sanskrit samkranta (fully passed over), celebrates the passage of the sun from the sign of Pisces into the sign of Aries in zodiac. This is the height of the dry and hot season and, as in Thailand's Songkran , it is celebrated in a most raucous manner- by throwing buckets of cold water at anyone who dares to venture into the streets. Foreignere not exempt.
       In cities, temporary stages called pandal (from the Tamil pendel) are erected along main thoroughfares. Each pandal ss sponsored by civic groups, neighbourhood associations, student societies or government departments, the members of whom stand next to rows of water barrels and douse every person or vehicle that passes by.
       On a spiritual level, the Burmese believe that during this three day period the king of the nats (spirits), Thagyamin, visits the human world to tally his annual record of the good deeds and misdeeds humans have performed. Villagers place flowers and sacred leaves in front of their homes to welcome the nat .Thagyamin's departure on the morning of the third day marks the beginning of the new year, when properly brought-up youung people wash the hair of their elder kin, Buddha images are ceremonially washed and pongyis (monks) are offered particularly appetising almsfood. Although the true meaning of the festival is still kept alive by ceremonies such as these, nowadays it's mainly a festival of fun. In between getting soaked, there will be dancing, singing and theatre. In the latter, the emphasis is on satire - particularly making fun of the government, the latest female fashions and any other items of everyday interest. Cultural taboo against women acting in a boisterous manner are temporarily lifted, so women can 'kidnap' young men, blacken their faces with soot or oil, bind their hands and dunk their 'heads in buckets of water until the boys surrender and perform a hilarious monkey dance for the girls.
Workers' Day
        Although the government renounced sociali in 1989, the country still celebrates MayDay 1 MAy-as Workers' Day.

June/July
Buddhist Lent
        The full moon of Waso is the beginning of three month Buddhist 'Lent'.Laypeople pre monasteries with stacks of new robes for dent monks, since during the Lent period months are restricted to their monasteries for a proled period of piritual retreat. Ordinary people also expected to be rather more religious during this time - marrages do not take place any inauspicious to move house. The most of Burmese Buddhist will observe eight precise rather than the usual five-for the duration season. This is a good time for young men temporarily enter the monasteries.
Martyrs's Day
The 19th of July is Martyr's Day,comrade rating the assassination of Bogyoke Aung San and his comrades on that day in 1947.We are laid at his mausoleam north Shwedagon Paya in Yangon. Government officials probably pray the Burmese people attempt to reinstall the planned civilize government aborted by Aung San's assassination.

July/August
Wagaung Festival
        At the festival in Wagaung lots are drawn who will have to provide monks with the rice. If you're in Mandalay, try to get to Taugnnu about 30km north where there is a no day festival to keep the nats happy.

September/October
Boat Races
        This is the height of the wet season, so what better time to hold boat races? They're held in rivers,lakes and even ponds all over Myanmar ,but the best place to be is Inle where the Buddha images at the Phaung Daw U Kyaung are ceremonially toured around the lake in the huge royal barge, the Karaweik. The latter comes just before the festival of Thadingyut and usually overlaps late September and early October.
Thadingyut
In Thadingyut the Buddhist Lent comes to an end and all those couples who had been putting of marriage now rush into each other's arms. Monks are free to travel from kyaung to kyaung or to go on pilgrimage to holy spots such as Kyaiktiyo or Mt Popa. The Festival of Lights takes place during Thadingyut to celebrate Buddha's return from a period of preaching dhamma (Buddhist philosophy) in Tavatimsa (the highest deva realm), his way lit by devas who lined the route of his descent. For the three days of the festival all of Myanmar is lit by oil lamps, fire balloons, candles and even mundane electric lamps. Every house has a paper lantern hanging outside and it's happy, joyful time all over Myanmar - particularly after the solemnity of the previous three months. Pwes may. be performed on pandals (stage platforms) erected along city streets,particularly in Mandalay.

October/November
Tazaungmon
        The full-moon night of Tazaungmon is an Occasion for another `festival of lights', known properly as Tazaungdaing. It's particularly celebrated in the Shan State - in Taunggyi there are fire balloon competitions. In some areas there are also speed-weaving competitions during the night young Burmese women show their prowess at weaving by attempting to produce robes for Buddha images between dusk and dawn. The results, finished or not, are donated to the monks. The biggest weaving competitions take place at Shwedagon Paya in Yangon.
Kahtein
        Tazaungmon also brings kahtein (Pali :kathina), a one month period at the end of Buddhist Lent during which new monastic robes and requisites are offered to the monastic community. Many people simply donate cash; kyat notes are folded and stapled into floral patterns on wooden 'trees' called padetha and offered to the monasterics. This symbolises a much older tradition in which laypeople would leave kathina robes hanging from tree branches in the forest for monks to find.
National Day
       Myanmar's national day falls in late November or early December.

November/December
Nadaw
       During Nadaw, many nat pwes are held; Nadaw is actually spelt with the characters for nat and taw (respectful honorific).
Christmas
       Despite Myanmar's predominantly Buddhist background, Christmas Day is a public holiday in deference to the many Christian Kayin.

December/January
Kayin New Year
       Held on the first waxing moon of Pyatho, the Kayin new year is considered a national holi- day .Kayin communities throughout Myanrmar celebrate by wearing their traditional dress of woven tunics over red longyis and by hosting folk dancing and singing performances. The largest celebrations are held in the Kayin suburb of Insein, just north of Yangon, and in Hpaan, the capital of the Kayin State.
Ananda Festival
       The Ananda Festival, held at the Ananda Paya in Bagan, also takes place during Pyatho.
Paya Pwes
       In addition to these main pan-Myanmar festivals, nearly every active paya or kyaung community hosts occasional celebrations of its own, often called pagoda festivals in Burmese English. The typical paya pwe features the same kinds of activities as a major festival -craft and food vendors, music and dance - on a smaller scale. The biggest pro-liferation of paya fairs occur on full-moon days and nights during the January to March period, following the main rice harvest. providing local paddy farmers and their families a good excuse to party. The festivals also offer added market venues for local basketweavers, potters, woodcarvers, blacksmiths, longyi-weavers and other artisans. To the professional hse-hna pave thi (twelve-festival traders) who travel from festival to festival following the lunar calendar, the smaller paya fairs serve as convenient fillers between major gigs. Other assorted camp followers include fortunetellers. movable teashops, tent barbers, homespun beauty consultants, pickpockets and professional beggars. Particular paya festivals are described in the appropriate destination sections throughout this guidebook.
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