Thingyan, Myanmar Water Festival, takes place toward the end of the hot, dry season and ushers in the Myanmar New Year.
Thingyan, which means “transit”, is the Myanmar New Year Festival and is held in the month of Tagu, the first month of the Myanmar Calendar, which usually falls on 13th April and lasts for three or four days. Thingyan is the festival in which you can get the greatest fun for the longest period.
The eve of Thingyan, the first day of the festival is called A-Kyo-Nei (in Myanmar), then the next day is called A-Kya-Nei, the third day is called A-Kyat-Nei and the fourth is known as A-Tet-Nei, the last day of the water festival.
The oldest recorded history of the celebration of Thingyan was in the 13th century. Historical accounts had it that Nara Thiha Pathae (King of Bagan) instructed the royal ladies to throw water at one of his wives adhering to what was then known as the popular tradition during the celebration of the Thingyan. Considering that the celebration was new only a few people knew that throwing water at one another is part of the celebration, the wife, feeling that she was humiliated, planned to assassinate the king. The King found out about his mistress’ plans and immediately executed her along with her families and relatives by burning them at stake.
Thingyan (The Water Festival) is the most interesting and greatest occasion for merry-making with the largest number of people taking part in it throughout the country. During the Thingyan Festival, people pour water over one another to the melodious tunes of singing and dancing at the decorated pavilions. People set up pandals or stages and throw water at revelers who go round the city in open cars. Most of the revelers are teenagers, and children get lots of fun, playing in the wet. Water-throwing, shouting and teasing are accepted as a natural process during Thingyan. People get into a forgiving mood and even mere strangers treat each other as long-lost brothers. Myanmar people join together to make their favorite Thingyan desserts with family or friends. Monte Lone Yay Paw is one of the most popular and iconic food that represents Thingyan. During these auspicious days, Myanmar people perform a lot of meritorious deeds to usher in the New Year such as keeping Sabbath, going to pagodas and monasteries, offering food and aims to monks, paying respect to parents, teachers and elders, setting free fish and cattle and so on. Many elderly people spend the days of the festival observing Sabbath, listening to sermons, sitting in meditation and telling beads at pagodas and monasteries.
On the last day of Thingyan, some youths earn merit by attending to the needs of the old such as feeding, washing the hair and giving a manicure. And some youths carry out Thingyan cleaning work at pagodas and monasteries. One striking phenomenon of Thingyan is the flowering of the Padauk (gumkino trees) that occurs only three times in a year, lasting for only one day each time.
Some of the traditional food during this time is the rice balls called ‘mont loun yeibaw’ filled with palm sugar inside. It is cooked by throwing the rice balls in a container with boiling water and taken out of the container when they finally surfaced.
Another popular food is the ‘Mont let saung’ made with sweet syrup and coconut milk and served with grated coconut meat and sesame seeds on top.
You have probably noticed that water is a big part of Thingyan Festival and sure you will experience have water splashed on you during this time. There are three reasons for throwing water during Thingyan. First, it is done as a symbol of washing away the impurities or sins of the old year. The second reason is more practical. Water throwing relieves the intense heat of April, which is the hottest month of the year. No wonder most people welcome it and no one seems to mind it. The third reason is simply to have fun.
Thingyan is a distinctive festival which is always awaited with great joy and excitement by Myanmar people every year.
We hope you will enjoy the time off during the Thingyan holidays!