Each year 2 Buddhist festivals of light are celebrated in Myanmar: Thadingyut festival and Tazaungdaing Festival. Travelers in Myanmar for either of these annual festivities will see the country aglow as home, temples, and streets are adorned with bright lights.
Both of these magical light festivals offer tourists an insight into Buddhist tradition and Myanmar culture, visitors are welcome to join locals as they mark the special occasion.
The full moons of Thadingyut and Tazaaungdaing are public holidays in Myanmar, visitors can expect a celebratory atmosphere as locals take time off work.
When is the Thadingyut Festival?
The Thadingyut lighting festival of Myanmar is on the full moon in Thadingyut, the 7th month on the Burmese calendar, usually in October, marking the end of Buddhist lent.
Thadingyut is held over 3 days, beginning on the day before the full moon and lasting until the day following the full moon.
Thadingyut Festival 2020 will take place between 29th October and 2nd November. Overseas visitors traveling to Myanmar for the event in 2020 should apply for a Myanmar visa at least 3 business days before departure.
What Are the Origins of the Thadingyut Festival?
Buddha’s mother, Maya, died just a week after the birth of the Buddha and it is believed that she was then reborn in the Trayastrimsa heaven in the form of a deva.
It is said that at some point during his life Buddha ascended to Trayastrimsa to give thanks to his mother. Buddha preached Buddhist texts called Abhidharma to a group of heavenly beings, amongst which was his mother.
Buddha descended back to earth on the day of the full moon, known as Abhidharma day. Different versions of the story exist, some claim that a stairway of gold, silver, and rubies was created to help the Buddha back to earth whilst others state that the pathway was made of stars.
People set out lights to help guide the Buddha, and it is from this belief that the Thadingyut Festival was born.
How is Thadingyut Celebrated in Myanmar?
To commemorate the moment that the Buddha made his descent back to earth, people in Myanmar decorate pagodas and their homes with electric lights, candles, and lanterns. Fireworks also feature during the festivities.
Musical plays called zat pwes, movies, and open-air stage shows are also enjoyed by residents and visitors.
Tourists in Myanmar for the Buddhist festival of light can sample traditional dishes on offer at the many stalls set up in the street. There are also shops selling useful items for the home and toys.
The young pay respect to their elders and ask for forgiveness
It is common for Buddhists to go to pagodas and monasteries to pay their respects to monks and offer food.
The annual event is also an opportunity for the young to pay respect and give thanks to their elders especially parents, teachers, and elderly relatives. They ask for forgiveness for wrongdoings committed during the year and often receive pocket money in return.
The Best Places to Celebrate Thadingyut in Myanmar
Myanmar’s magical light festival can be enjoyed across the country. Travelers who wish to see the biggest and brightest events should consider visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
To get to the Thadingyut Festival at the Shwedagon Pagoda, overseas visitors can fly to Yangon International Airport (YIA) before taking a taxi or public transport to the center of the city.
Other places to spend the Thadingyut holiday include:
What is the Meaning of the Tazaungdaing Festival in Myanmar?
The Tazaungdaing (Tazaungdine) Festival is the second festival of lights in Myanmar. It takes place on the night of the full moon in Tazaungmone, the eighth month on the Burmese calendar, usually in November.
Celebrations are held to welcome the end of the rainy season and the beginning of a giving when new robes and other items are donated to monasteries.
The Tazaungdaing Festival of lights commemorates the night the Buddha’s mother spent weaving robes for him to wear when during his renunciation. It is said that the Buddha’s aunt continued to offer new robes annually, and so the tradition has continued.
How is Tazaungdaing Festival Celebrated?
Key features of the second Buddhist festival of lights are:
- All-night robe weaving competitions, especially at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
- The releasing of candle-lit hot-air balloons in Taunggyi
- Firework launching contests
- Concerts and other live performances
- Alms-giving and charity as a means of earning merit