Myanmar, known as “The Golden Land,” is a fun-loving country. Every month in a year has its unique festival to celebrate in Myanmar. Most of the festivals are concerned with culture, tradition, and Buddhism since most of the people are Buddhists. Among numerous festivals, “Thingyan” or “Water Festival” is the most popular one among the young and the old, any race and religion. Everyone gets excited when the festival is drawing near.
The Thingyan festival falls in Tagu, the first month in Myanmar calendar which is equivalent to April in Gregorian calendar. Therefore, it is recognized as the New Year Festival of Myanmar. It is similar to Songkran in Thailand and Chaul Chnam Thmey (Khmer New Year) in Cambodia. In Myanmar, the festival lasts for four days or five days in the leap year. It is the time of saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new year.
During the festival, people throw water at one another which is a symbol of washing away the sins and impurities of the old year. In the old days, people splashed water by using leaves dipped into the bowl of water and patted the leaves onto the shoulder of another person. Nowadays, sprinklers, water guns, hoses and high-pressured water pipes are used to splash water. When the festival starts, pandals constructed around the country become alive with various decorations, water splashing, singing, dancing and other entertainment. Revellers, who are mostly young people, go round the city in cars to get soaked in the water. There are ceremonies offering light refreshments and soft drinks to everyone as a donation everywhere. It is a beautiful culture indeed! Thingyan is the occasion for not only “fun” making, but also “merit” making. Some people go to monasteries to take Sabbath or meditate at the meditation centers.
“Padauk” is the most special flower among various flowers blooming in the festival month. It is a small bright yellow flower blossom that blooms among the dark green leaves of the tree. When Padauk blooms, the entire tree turns gold and shiny. The fragrance of flowers then fills the atmosphere. Girls in Myanmar enjoy wearing Padauk flowers on their heads and boys would pick these flowers from trees for them. Padauk symbolizes youth, beauty, and romance. What is more, the flowers can be offered to the Buddha statues as a good deed.
Thingyan has its own special food called “Mont-lone-yay-baw,” meaning riceballs floating on water. It is a sticky rice ball with jaggery in the center topped with strands of coconut. It is simple to make this dish. Firstly, mix rice flour with dough which is broken into small pieces and add jaggery to the center. After, boil the rice balls in the water for some time and serve them with some coconut toppings. Sometimes, people play pranks by putting some hot red chili in the center instead of jaggery. Please note that you cannot get mad at anyone who cheats, as it is the Thingyan tradition. So if you are served with Mont-lone-yaw-baw, keep an alert on red chili inside!
To sum up, Thingyan is the most enjoyable festival in Myanmar because every walk of life participates in it. It reflects a festive spirit of Myanmar people who love fun and laughter. Therefore, it would be advisable to take part in Thingyan festival when you visit Myanmar in April!
By Hnin Thida Nwe, ASEAN Correspondent from Myanmar