Festivals in Myanmar

Party with the locals

Traditional festivals are always the best occasions to blend in with the locals. Burmese traditional festivals follow the unique Burmese Calendar, associated with the Buddhist Calendar. Find out the most important festivals and events month by month.

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About Festivals in Myanmar ...

  • Burmese calendar and Buddhist calender are used to mark important traditional festivals and each month is named and dated differently from the Georgian calendar.
  • Most traditional festivals and events are Buddhist in nature, blended with certain Nat Worship and regional modification.
  • While nationwide festivals such as the Light Festival and Water Festival are celebrated everywhere, smaller regional festivals can be stumbled upon by luck and they would be even greater in the rural side than the urban cities.
  • Foreign travelers are welcome to participate but certain binding rules are to be respected.

Most Important Festivals

As a land of festivals, important dates and events run through the calendar, offering chances for foreigners to peek into the local life and cultures. Associating with the Buddhist Calendar, Burmese mark their celebrations according to the Burmese Calendar and the movement of the sun and moon.
Tagu, the first month of the Burmese Calendar, falls between April and March on the Gregorian Calendar. Different names for each months are: Pyatho - January, Tabodwe - Febrary, Tabaung - March, Tagu - April, Kason - May, Nayon - June, Waso - July, Wagaung - August, Tawthalin - September, Thadingyut - October, Tazaungmon - November, Nadaw - December, and yearly circle has 12 or 13 months with each month having 15 waxing days and 14 or 15 waning days.

Myanmar Festivals by Month

January (Pyatho): 3 Major Events

January is among the best time to visit Myanmar, thanks to the lovely weather. There are three major festivals in different regions.

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
Kachin ManawKnown as the New Year for Kachin, celebration is held in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. Colorfully-decorated Manaw poles are erected at the center while Kachin people in their flashy customs dance and sing around it.
Mytikyina is reachable by air from Yangon and Mandalay.
Myikyina, Kachin State
The first week of January (Pyatho)
Naga FestivalThe New Year of Naga tribes in the western part of Myanmar, also the rarest one. Over 49 hill tribes gather around to celebrate and it lasts for two days. It is held on townships of Leshi, Lahe and Nanyun rotationally.Tribes of Leshi, Lahe and Nanyun in Sagaing Region
Usually from January 14 to 16
Ananada Pagoda FestivalOne of the most celebrated festivals, Ananda Pagoda Festival is held for social gathering, reunification, propagation and perpetuation of the Buddhism. During the 15 days of celebration, villagers around Bagan set up camp for market fairs and traditional performances presented by the local theatrical troupes. The most interesting aspect must be over 1,000 monks performing continuous chanting of scriptures for 72 hours while donors placing donations to their hands.Ananada Pagoda in Bagan, Mandalay Division
From the full-moon day to the end of Pyatho month

February (Tabodwe): 4 Major Events

As the weather is getting hotter, it's time to start the farm work and get ready for a busy year. Festivals in Febrary are mainly focused on livilihood than religion. There are 4 events.

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
Shwe Mann Settaw Pagoda FestivalThis unique festival is mainly held in the central part of Myanmar, a time for locals to participate in merit-making rituals around Shwe Mann Settaw Pagoda, which is known for a pair of golden footprints. Prayer rituals are led by monks and locals have a blast in the markets and waterfront sports by the Mann River.
Mytikyina is reachable by air from Yangon and Mandalay.
Shwe Settaw in Magwe State, Central Myanmar
From the 5th day of Tabodwe month and lasts for 11 days
Kyaik Khauk Pagoda FestivalThis 8-day occasion takes place overnight from the 8th day of Tabodwe month. The venue is around Kyaik Khauk Pagoda in Thanlyin, outside Yangon and locals get to the event by ox-carts. Merchants set up huts selling handicraft products of local people such as lacquerware, dishes, silk, garments and daily supplies.Thanlyin, 1 hour away from Yangon
From the 8th day to 15th of Tabodwe month
Mahamuni Pagoda FestivalLegend has it that Mahamuni Buddha image was built right in front of the Buddha, thus daily face-washing ritual is performed but the biggest event comes during the coolest month of February. Fire is lit by the hosting monks and while chanting a Buddhist text. Locals offer cooked sticky rice with ginger, coconut and sesame.Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay, Mandalay Division
The 14th and 15th day of Tabodwe month
Htamane Sticky Rice FestivalA special festival dedicating to sticky rice. Locals will hold a one-day competition of sticky rice cooking in every town across the country. Cooked rice will be firstly offered to the Buddha and then given out to everybody at the ceremony.Nationwide
The full-moon day of Tabodwe month

March (Tabaung): 6 Major Ones among the 14 Events

As the end of the peak season, March holds the most festivals and events that are mainly related to religion but in smaller scale. There are 14 events nationwide and, to svae you some time, we have picked the ones in the commonly reachable destinations and worthy a visit.

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
God Ko Gyi Kyaw FestivalGod Kyo Gyi Kyaw is a local Nat god who loves to drink and gamble. At the home of God Ko Gyi Kyaw in Phakhan, Yayzagyo Township, 8 days of celebration and performances of dancing and singing are held to worship this funny god. Phakhan, Yayzagyo Township near Bagan
From the 3rd day on of Tabaung month
Becoming a Monk CeremonyOne of the most important phases of a Burmese’ life, the ceremony of becoming a monk takes place during the Tabodwe and Tabaung months nationwide. Although different regions mark different days of the ceremony, it is usually at the beginning of the school break. Chances to witness young boys and novices parading around pagodas and temples, senior monks shaving heads of the youngsters before they enter a monastery.Nationwide
2 days of the Tabodwe and Tabaung months
Shwe Nattaung Pagoda FestivalOne of the biggest-scale events in Myanmar, this festival is held at Shwe Nattaung Pagoda lasts for 7 days, celebrating the harvest and alms-offering. This specific pagoda is believed to be one of the oldest in Myanmar, dating back to the Pyu Kingdom (2nd Century BC - mid-11th Century). Villagers present small gifts and donation to the long line of marching monks around the pagoda.Shwe Taung, Bago City, Bago Region, 2 hours away from Yangon
From the 8th day to 15th day of Tabaung month
Pindaya Cave FestivalPindaya Cave is known for housing countless Buddha images and the number keeps growing every year thanks to this special festival. During the 5-days of Pindaya Cave Festival, ethnic groups of Shan, Pa O, Palaung Taung Yoe, Intha and Danu, travel all the way to Pindaya, bringing their honor and offering of Buddha images in all sizes. They set up camps for overnights and grand market fares cater to their needs while dancing, chanting and singing celebration is under way.Pindaya, Shan State, 2 hours away from Inle Lake
From the 11th day till the full-moon day of Tabaung month
Kakku Pagoda FestivalThis is a special festival exclusively to the Pa O people who live around Tangyi in Shan State. Kakku Pagoda Complex has over 3,000 temples and pagodas, which are much smaller in scale compared to the ones in Bagan. During 3 days of joy, the Pa O people gather around in their festival finest to meet friends, trade goods, and more importantly celebrate the bountiful harvest by offering rice to the monks.Kakku, near Taungyi in Shan State, 2 hours away from Inle Lake
From the 14th day of Tabaung month
Shwedagon Pagoda FestivalAs the most attractive pagoda standing prominently at the heart of Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda sees the biggest flock during this one-week festival. The most interesting event is looming contest for woven saffron held at the four corners on the pagoda ground. Another spectacle goes to the monks chanting all day without a break.Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
From the full-moon day of Tabaung month and lasts for one week.

April to June (Tagu, Kason, Nayon): 3 Major Events

The time during April and June is considered as the shoulder season for visiting Myanmar. The cost of traveling drops yet the festival atmosphere is still rocket high with the most important one Water Festival in April (Kason). Here are the 3 major events.

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
New Year Water FestivalBuddhist New Year Water Festival is the most grandiose even across Asia. Also known as Thingyan in Burmese, this festival symbolizes the end of the dry season and start of the rainy season, thus the water-throwing. Splashing water on each other is believed to get ride of evil, bad luck and guilt , good health and fortunate are on the way. If you are in Myanmar during this time of the year, be prepared to get soaking wet. Nationwide
Usually the 13th to 16th of April, Kason month in Burmese and lasts for 4 to 5 days
Bhodi Tree Watering Festival / Vesak DayLegend has it that Gautama Buddha achieved ultimate enlightenment in meditation under a bhodi tree. Water-splashing ritual is practiced as a good-merit action by locals watering bhodi trees planted in the temples and pagodas across the country. In some regions, this festival is also referred as Vesak Day, a time to commemorate, not only the enlightenment, but also the birth of the Buddha.Nationwide
1 day on the full moon of Tagu month
Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda FestivalPakokku is a waterfront town on the western bank of the Irrawaddy River and can be reached by multi-day cruises from Mandalay or Bagan. This festival is held among the local communities to venerate the end of the harvest season. Farmers bring out their yields to the market and donate a certain part of the profits to the pagodas. Pakkoku is the best producing area of Thanaka and the market scene is definitely worthy a visit.Pakokku, Magway Region in Central Myanmar, 3 hours by car from Mandalay
15 days from the 8th of Nayon month

July to September (Waso, Wagaung, Tawthalin): 4 Events

July to September is the hottest period of the year, with much rain and occasionally storms hitting the country. However, this is also the longest time of festival celebration and nothing seems to stop the locals rejoicing in the upbeat atmosphere. The 4 major events are:

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
Waso Full Moon FestivalTo keep his glory alive, locals celebrate the Waso Full Moon Festival dedicating to Buhhda Gautama’s three pivotal points -- his concept, his previous mundane life as a prince and his first sermon to his pupils. Waso month is the beginning of Buddhist Lent and monks are allowed to get out of their monasteries during the night. Locals donate more clothes than food as the monks are in need of more clothing for alms-begging during the rainy days. Nationwide
The full-moon day of Waso month and lasts for 15 days.
Waso Chin-Lone FestivalThis special festival, lasting for 48 days, is pretty much as the Super Bowl game season in America. Chin-Lone is a traditional sport involving a cane ball, which is believed to be practiced by the Burmese for over 1,500 years. Teams from all places of the country come together to match near Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay. Game is carried on to the melody of a traditional Burmese orchestra.Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay
After the full-moon day of Waso month and lasts for 48 days.
Yadana Gu Spirit FestivalNat worship is a unique local belief practiced in the Central and Upper Myanmar. Based on pantheism, every thing and even human beings can be turned into gods after death and continue their roles of protecting the region in eternity. Yadana Gu Spirit Festival is one of the most-celebrated Nat festival, at which local villagers offer food, money and daily items to the Nat spirits.Amarapura, near Mandalay
From the 1st day to the 8th day of Wagaung month
Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda FestivalHousing 5 Buddha images in a floating pagoda, Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda is the primary worship center in Inle Lake. Hill tribes of Shan State bring flowers, rice and fruits in lacquered trays to pay homage to the Buddha images, which is considered as a good-merit earning action. A gigantic boat will take the images on a parade in the lake. The most exciting part of the celebration is boat race by fishing villages with the famous one-leg rowing.Inle Lake, Shan State
From the middle of Tawthalin month and lasts for 18 days to Thadinguyt month

October (Thadingyut): 5 Events

Foreign travelers start to pour in at the beginning of October. Weather is nice and a number of religious festivals take place during the month of Thadingyut, which are:

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
The Festival of LightsIn honor of the anniversary of Buddha and his disciples returning from celestial abode, thousands of lanterns and candles are lit at every corner in Myanmar. After 3 months of preaching, the Buddha returned during the night and monks light up his way back to earth. This is also the last month of Buddhist Lent, and locals pay homage to monks, parents and elders for 3 days straight.Nationwide
The 14th to 16th of Thadingyut month
Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda FestivalIn the ancient capital of Mandalay, Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda Festival is celebrated to honor the Buddha image carved by marble. Money, food, clothes and daily supplies are donated by the locals coming from nearby towns of Mandalay. This festival also brings an awesome chance to sample some finest Upper Myanmar cuisines and watch an interesting cane ball game.Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda, Mandalay
One day before the full-moon day of Thadingyut month and lasts for 4 days.
Elephant Dance FestivalThe humble town of Kyaukse, 40km outside Mandalay, is seldom visited by foreigners but it is the primary venue for the Elephant Dance Festival. Elephants are considered as sacred animals in Buddhism and they will be adorned in colorful customs at this festival. Competition of the elephants’ dress and riding races will take place on the first day; on the second day, locals will pay homage to the pagoda while a dancing contest is under way: dancers will show off their dancing moves in funky elephant costumes.Kyaukse, near Mandalay
The 14th and 15th days of Thadingyut month
Kaunghmudaw Pagoda FestivalKaunghmudaw Pagoda holds the most significance in local spiritual life in central Myanmar and this festival, well, a market fair to be accurate, offers the locals various trading opportunities for 5 whole days. Buddhist rituals will also be expected.Saigaing State
From the full-moon day of Thadinguyt month and lasts for 5 days
Shwe Kyin Light FestivalThis festival by the Shwe Kyin River is similar to the Yipeng Festival in Thailand. Also in respect of the Buddha’s path back to earth, lanterns are released up to the sky during the night and also down the creek of the river. During the daytime, a contest of boat race will be carried on by male and female teams separately.Shwe Kyin River, Shwe Kyin District, Bago
1 day after the full-moon day of Thadingyut month.

November (Tazaungmone): 4 Events

November is a great time to visit Myanmar and festivals of this month, interestingly enough, are mainly related to the full moon. Check out some more details here.

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
The Full-moon Festival TazaungmoneMore widely-known as the hot-air balloon festival, this spectacle takes place in Taunggyi, Shan State. An exact number of 9,999 candles are lit up to honor the Buddha Koehtatkyi Pagoda on the night of full moon. Visitors can witness countless paper-made hot-air balloons with candles floating up to the night sky. This festival also marks the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the Kathina season. At 4pm, a musical of traditional harp starts; at 5pm, candles and lanterns are lit and fireworks start going off in the dimming sky; at midnight, attendees gather to feast on vegetable curry to prevent illness. Taunggyi, southern part of Shan State, 1 hour from Inle Lake
The full-moon day of Tazaungmone month
Shwezigone Pagoda FestivalAs the model of the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Shwezigon Pagoda holds profound meaning in Burmese’ daily life. A special festival is dedicated to this particular edifice. As Nyaung U Village is Bagan’s major commercial hub, this festival is also a market festival where you can mingle with the locals.Shwezigon Pagoda in Nyaung U Village, near Bagan
From the full-moon day of Tazaungmone month and lasts for 15 days.
Phowintaung Pagoda FestivalPhowintaung Pagoda is known for the giant Buddha image sitting inside a cave in Monywa, in Sagaing Region. Local families enjoy the festival particularly as it’s a chance for relatives to gather and have a good meal after shopping for household items.Monywa in Sagaing Region, 3 hours by car from Mandalay
The 14th day of Tazaungmone month and lasts for 2 days.
Shwesandaw Pagoda Festival A tooth relic of the Buddha is enshrined at Shwesadaw Pagoda in Bago and locals come all the way to this pagoda to pay honor, which is considered a part of good-merit attribute. Besides the hyped contests of Burmese drum and cymbal orchestras, visitors also have a chance to purchase some authentic lacquer ware and handmade Longyi.Pyay in Bago Region
One day of the full moon in Tazaungmone month.

December (Nadaw): 3 Major Events

As the westerners are busy with getting ready for Christmas, celebration of traditional festivals in Myanmar doesn't seem to cease. At the end of the year, you will have a chance to stumble upon 4 major festivals.

FestivalEvent & MeaningsWhen & Where
Mae Lamu Pagoda FestivalA day trip from Yangon, taking part in the special festival of Mae Lamu Pagoda offers some off-the-beatan-track experience. This pagoda is associated with a fascinating legend that a girl born from a mangrove bud who became the mother of King Okkalapa, who later built the sublime Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. The major event here is the 24-hour non-stop chanting of the monks, as well as traditional dancing and singing.Okkalapa Town, 20 minutes by car from Yangon
From the 8th day to the full moon of Nadaw month.
Popa Guardian Spirit Festival1 hour away from Bagan by car, Mountain Popa is the primary seat of Nat worship. The annual festival of Popa Guardian Spirit Festival is dedicated to numerous Nat spirits who are protecting the Central and Upper Myanmar. Nat believers march and collect merit along the way, in hopes of a new year of luck and prosperity.Mountain Popa, 1 hour away by car from Bagan
From the full-moon day of Nadaw month and lasts for 6 days.
9,000 Lights of Candle FestivalAs the last but not least festival, the 9,000 Lights of Candle Festival is fairly equivalent to western world’s New Year Eve. At the night of the 31st of December, Buddhists lit 9000 lights to welcome the coming year at the top of Mountain Kyaiktiyo, which is known for the Golden Rock. The pagoda is packed by donors with flowers, fruits, rice, money and all kinds of offerings.Kyaiktiyo, 6 hours by car from Yangon
The 31st of December.

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