Festivals

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If you happen to be in Yangon when the festivals are on, you get a deep glimpse of the Burmese character. The Burmese festivals, like the Burmese pagodas help you to see the Burmese as they are. Their predilection of towards unaffected good fellowship is to be seen in the various festival-carnivals. Primarily, these festivals are religions in origin, but there is scarcely a festival which is not full of mirthful enjoyment.

There are two festivals signifying the commencement and the end of the Buddhist Lent _ a period of three months, between July and October _ which synchronies with the heavy rainy season. The Wazo Festival, at the commencement of the Lent, marks the sojourn of the Buddha in Tavatimsa (Heaven) when Buddha preached the philosophy of the Abhidhamma to the Devas there. This festival is mainly devoted to the offerings of gifts to the Buddhist monks to help them with their austerities during the Lent. During this period of Lent there are no weddings, no courtships and a Burmese would not even think of changing his residence.

At the end of the Lent (October), there is the great Festival of Thadinggyut, celebrated on a full moon day and marked by illuminations, when even the poorest would have some candles burning if he cannot afford paper lanterns or modern electric lamps, signifying the return of the Buddha to the earth, when all the way down the gods illumined the Buddha’s path.

Then we have the Tazaungdaing Festival, somewhere in the middle of November, again on a full moon day, another occasion for illuminations and sending up of fire balloons and crackers.

Then there is the Full Moon of Tabodwe in February, a harvest festival signifying the gathering in of the paddy, the principal agricultural product of Burma.

The Burmese New Year is Thingyan in April, also known as the Water Festival. It generally falls roughly in the second week of April and runs for four days, when the Burmese literally let themselves go, splashing and pouring water on friends and strangers alike and indulging in a round of merriment, the like of which one cannot come across anywhere else. On the fourth day that is after the three days of water-throwing and parading in groups, or in gaily decorated cars and floats, singing and dancing, the New Year is ushered in, when the Buddha images are ceremonially bathed and Buddhist monks are lavishly entertained.

On the full moon day of Kason in May falls the Kason Naung Ye Thoon Pwe Festival, a celebration which is thriced blessed, being the day of the Buddha’s Birth. His Enlightenment and the Attainment of His Nirvana. On this day, the Buddhists pour water on the sacred banyan tree.

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