Public Holidays and Festivals in Myanmar

Myanmar Festivals

There are many public holidays in the Myanmar calendar. Most of these involve some sort of festival or celebration of the country’s history or culture.

The famous Thingyan Water Festival in spring and the Festival of Lights in autumn are among the best-known Myanmar holidays and draw visitors from around the world to experience the unique spectacles and festivities.

Burmese people are typically warm and friendly and international travelers are welcome to join in the fun and the celebrations.

Learn about the most important Burmese public holidays, when they take place, and how to take part in them with the Myanmar e-Visa.

How Many Public Holidays Are There in Myanmar?

Myanmar has between 16 and 18 public holidays depending on the year.

Some of the country’s most important festivals do not occur on the same date on the Gregorian calendar. Instead, they are decided by the Burmese calendar, the Kayin calendar, or the lunar cycle.

Because of this, the Kayin New Year is not celebrated in some years, while in others it may be celebrated twice (in January and December).

The list of public holidays in Myanmar is as follows:

  • January 1 – International New Year’s Day
  • January 4 – Independence Day
  • February 12 – Union Day
  • March (dates vary) – Full Moon of Tabaung
  • March 2 – Peasants’ Day
  • March 27 – Tatmadaw (Armed Forces) Day
  • April (dates vary) – Thingyan Water Festival
  • April (dates vary) – Myanmar New Year
  • April/May (dates vary) – Full Moon of Kasong (Buddha’s birthday)
  • May 1 – Labour Day
  • July 19 – Martyrs’ Day
  • July (dates vary) – Full Moon of Waso (the beginning of Buddhist Lent)
  • October (dates vary) – Full Moon of Thadingyut (Festival of Lights; the end of Buddhist Lent)
  • October/November (dates vary) – Deepavali (Diwali)
  • November (dates vary) – Full Moon of Tazaungdaing
  • November/December (dates vary) – National Day
  • December 25th – Christmas Day
  • December/January (dates vary) – Kayin New Year Day

 

Business Hours in Myanmar

Business hours can vary in Myanmar, but typically shops open from 9.30 am to 6 pm or later from Monday to Saturday. Some stores are also open on Sunday.

Markets are typically open most of the week, but may be closed on Mondays.

Other businesses typically open as follows:

  • Restaurants: every day 8.00-21.00
  • Internet cafes: all week 9.00-22.00
  • Banks: Monday to Friday 9.00-16.00
  • Post offices and other government offices: Monday to Friday 9.30-16.30pm.
  • Business office hours: Monday to Friday 9.00-17.00 (some offices may open on Saturdays)

 

During public holidays and festivals in Myanmar, opening hours for most businesses are affected and many may close altogether so that the staff can enjoy the day off.

What Is the Water Festival in Myanmar?

Thingyan, popularly known as the Water Festival, is an important Burmese holiday that takes place each year over 4-5 days in April and leads up to the Myanmar New Year.

The festival is a huge Myanmar celebration, with parades and performances in the streets from musicians, dance troupes, comedians, and puppeteers.

Food is given out for free during Thingyan, particularly the local snack mont lone yeibaw, which are rice dumplings with palm sugar inside. Locals will cook their own snacks to share with their neighbors and other festival-goers in the street.

There is also a religious element to Thingyan, which celebrates life and rebirth as the old year ends and the new year begins. Offerings are made to images of the Buddha and scented water is poured over it to cleanse the image.

Thingyan is comparable to the Songkran in Laos and Thailand and Cambodian New Year.

How Do You Celebrate Water Festival in Myanmar?

The defining feature of Thingyan is the throwing of water. Traditionally, this was done as simply sprinkling scented water to wash away the sins of the past year.

However, in modern times, particularly in big cities, it has evolved into a large-scale water battle within each community. Those participating hurl water at one another from any type of receptacle. Some will use hoses and water pistols, while a common prank involves using ice water.

It is all taken as good fun and everyone is considered fair game with the exception of monks and pregnant women.

In cities like Yangon, temporary stages called “pandals” are erected in different locations and equipped with high-power water jets to soak passers-by.

What Is Union Day in Myanmar?

Union Day is a public holiday in Myanmar that celebrates the anniversary of the Panglong Agreement in 1947.

This was an important treaty in the history of the country, in which the central Burmese government and the leaders of the Shan, Kachin, and Chin peoples agreed on the unity of Myanmar, while granting autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas.

Union Day is celebrated on February 12 every year and continues to be a notable Myanmar holiday on which most businesses have the day off work.

The Full Moon Day of Thadingyut

One of Myanmar’s most important holidays, the Full Moon of Thadingyut is also known as the Festival of Light and marks the end of Buddhist lent.

It celebrates the Buddha’s return from heaven after preaching there to his reborn mother, Maya. According to tradition, Buddha and various deities in heaven constructed built stairways made of stars or precious stones and the people on Earth put up lights to welcome him back.

This is celebrated today by lighting up buildings. All over Myanmar, people put out clay lamps with a cotton wick and sesame seed oil.

During the Full Moon of Thadingyut, there are various festivities, including the following:

  • Street dancing
  • Musical performances
  • Charity events

On this day, children must pay respect to their elders. It is also a popular time to get married, since during the long Lenten period, there are traditionally no weddings. With the end of Buddhist Lent, many couples choose this time of celebration to marry.

The Full Moon of Thadingyut takes place between mid-October and mid-November, depending on the year, and is the second-most popular festival in Myanmar after the Thingyan.

How to Celebrate Myanmar’s Holidays and Festivals

In order to visit Myanmar for its holidays and festivities, it is important to check the dates of the celebrations you would like to attend. This is especially true of the festivals that change dates each year, whether due to the lunar cycle or the Myanmar calendar.

Before traveling to the country, it is important to check Myanmar visa requirements to see if you need to obtain authorization to cross the Burmese border.

Many nationalities are able to complete a Myanmar visa form online, which involves filling out a simple application form and submitting the traveler’s details. The process is very quick and avoids having to go to an embassy or consulate, where obtaining a visa can be time-consuming.

After obtaining an e-Visa for Myanmar, it is possible to experience any of the holidays in the Burmese calendar.