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'It was Burma Union Day, one of the many public holidays when the Burmese are able to practise their aptitude for leisure in the many ingenious ways they have developed through the centuries.'

Norman Lewis, Golden Earth: Travels in Burma

One of the most spectacular experiences to be had when travelling in Myanmar is to witness (and take part in!) one of the many festivals that pepper the calendar throughout the country, from the reveling water festival Thingyan celebrating the Myanmar new year, to the chaotic Taunggyi Tazaungdaing, where hot air balloons are sent into the sky with live fireworks attached to them. Myanmar festivals are rich in tradition, history and always guaranteed to satisfy the national thirst for fun and frolic. Below we look at both the pagoda festivals of Myanmar and the curious nat pwe, and then below that offer a comprehensive list of the principal Myanmar festivals that take place each year.

Pagoda Festivals

Most pagodas hold their own pagoda festival at some point in the year. Pleasure is as important as piousness at these occasions which have the air of a grandiose picnic. Even though the local community may be small, those from nearby villages will often come along (similar to the night fêtes of Southern France), in bygone years to view the possible travelling troupe or marionette show. Marionette shows are no longer common and in their place youngster bring boom boxes to the pagoda festival to play the best of Myanmar music - both traditional and contemporary. Though this is not as quaint as the puppets, it does make for a lively and somewhat raucous atmosphere.

Nat Festivals

Nat worship - that is, the worship of the curious spirit guardians of Myanmar - occasionally breaks out into a nat pwe - which is like a nat festival or a nat fête. At these Myanmar festivals theatrics are put on with the intent of luring the nat in question to join the thespians on stage. For this to be successful, the revelers require the art of a nat kadaw, a ‘nat wife’, who may be a women but is more commonly a transvestite. The nat pwe are full of riotous colour and music, as the nat are said to be attracted to this to an even greater extent than the Burmese.

At a nat pwe there is always the risk - adding to the excitement - that the summoned nat may enter the body of someone other than the nat kadaw. One of the most commonly summoned visitors, for evident reasons, is Ko Gyi Kyaw, ‘Big Famous Brother’, a particularly lascivious and drunken nat. If you are possessed by Ko Gyi Kyaw, it could lead to the utmost embarrassment, or provide the perfect excuse, depending upon your perspective.

Up to the time of the collapse of British rule in Myanmar, pwe, both in celebration of the nat and the lay kind, were a common occurrence on the streets throughout the country, sporadically appearing and blocking all transport hoping to pass, while dancers, musicians and actors performed and the crowd smoked cheroots and chewed betel until dawn.

In George Orwell’s novel Burmese Days, the protagonist takes a young perspective memsahib to watch a pwe:

The orchestra burst into a sudden loud squalling. There were pipes like bagpipes, a strange instrument consisting of plaques of bamboo which a man struck with a little hammer, and in the middle there was a man surrounded by twelve tall drums of different sizes. He reached rapidly from one to another, thumping them with the heel of his hand. In a moment the girl began to dance. But at first it was not a dance, it was a rhythmic nodding, posturing and twisting of the elbows, like the movements of one of those jointed wooden figures on an old-fashioned roundabout. ... Her hands, twisting like snakeheads with the fingers close together, could lie back until they were almost along her forearms … The music quickened to a climax. The girl rose upright and whirled round as swiftly as a top, the pannier of her ingyi flying out about her like the petals of a snowdrop. Then the music stopped as abruptly as it had begun, and the girl sank again into a curtsy, amid raucous shouting from the audience.

Nat pwe are no longer common, but the Taungbyone Ceremony just outside of Mandalay and the festivals at Mount Popa, home of the principal nat both offer the opportunity to witness nat worship and the nat kadaw at their most brazen and bizarre.

List ofPrincipal Myanmar Festivals

Ananda Pagoda Festival
Where: Ananda Temple, Bagan
When: Full moon day of Pyatho, January

Bullock carts bring pilgrims and festival-goers to the grand Ananda Temple of Bagan. Alms bowls filled with crops are offered to monks who wait in lines, and in front of the pagoda there is a fairground with market stalls and food stands.

Kachin Manao Festival
Where: Myitkyina and Putao, Kachin State
When: January

Celebrating the Kachin New Year, in January the six tribes of the Kachin people come together in their traditional costume. Spiritual dances are performed, principally around the richly decorated Manao poles, which appear like the totem poles of the native americans.

Naga New Year Festival
Where: Kham-Ti, Sagaing Division
When: January

The Naga New Year Festival offers foreigners the rare chance to see the elusive Naga people. The celebrations begin on the morning of New Year's Eve with an opening ceremony. That evening there is traditional dancing around bonfires, followed the next day by Naga sports performed to the beating of drums.

Moe Byae Festival
Where: Moe-Byae, Shan State
When: Full moon day of Tabodwe, January-February

This four-day Myanmar festival is the largest in Shan State, attracting the people of mountain tribes such as the Pa’O, Kayah and Padaung. Moe Byae is a small town situated on the border of Kayah State, and during this festival the central pagoda is surrounded by stalls selling everything from sweets to illegal motorbikes. There are musicians and dance performances which can be enjoyed while settling down to a hog roast and glass of rice whiskey.

Mahamuni Ceremonies
Where: Mahamuni Paya, Mandalay
When: Waxing and Full Moon Day of Tabodwe, February

These celebrations take place at the famed Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay, the Royal City’s answer to Shwedagon. Rice delicacies are sold and consumed in vast quantities and incense is burned for the celebrated Mahamuni image.

Nyan Taw Pagoda Festival
Where: Pyin-Oo-Lwin (Maymyo), Mandalay Region
When: January-February

Join the genteel people of the old British hill station Pyin Oo Lwin for their annual pagoda festival. As well as the inhabitants of the town, locals from Mandalay as well as Shan from over the border commonly make the journey to come and celebrate.

Golden Hilltop Festival
Where: Yangon
When: Full Moon of Tabodwe, January-February

A classic pagoda festival, the Golden Hilltop Festival of Kyaik Khauk Pagoda just across the Bago River from Yangon has the air of a funfair, with plenty of food stalls as well as those selling ceramic clay pots from Twante, bamboo mats and odd bits of furniture. There are dance shows and film screenings late into the night.

Shwe Saryan Pagoda Festival
Where: Shwe Saryan Village, Patheingyi, Mandalay Region
When: February-March

Just a 45 minute drive from Mandalay one can visit this more placid Myanmar festival, where visitors can browse through boxes of traditional toys and baskets made of dried toddy palm.

Indawgyi Festival
Where: Indawgyi Lake, Kachin State
When: February-March

At the beginning of spring the lake of Indawgyi (Myanmar’s largest lake) shallows to such an extent that two sandbanks emerge allowing festival-goers and pilgrims to walk to the pagoda at the centre. Shortly after the festival, the sandbanks are submerged by the water once more.

Htamane Festival
Where: Countrywide
When: February-March

This Myanmar festival is celebrated throughout the country.Htamane is a delicacy made up of sticky rice, sesame seeds, coconuts, peanuts and ginger. The sticky rice is soaked overnight and after poured into large vats stirred by strong men until all is cooked. The htamane is then offered to Buddha and given away to all those visiting the pagodas.

Baw Gyo Festival
Where: Near Hsipaw, Shan State
When: February-March

Once a year the four hidden Buddha images of the Baw Gyo Pagoda just outside of Hsipaw are brought out and placed on display to be gilded with gold leaf. The tea-growing ethnic group of the Palaung and jewellers from Kyaukme come here to sell their goods and produce. Certain gambling games are permitted for the duration of the pagoda festival. As one of the largest and most eagerly anticipated festival in Shan, it is often said that ‘he who has not seen Baw Gyo, has not seen Shan State.’

Pindaya Cave Festival
Where: Pindaya, Danu Self-Administered Zone, Shan State
When: 11th waxing day of Tabaung, March

At the Pindaya Cave Festival, many different ethnic groups from Shan State come together to celebrate at the cave pagoda. Many may also swim in Pindaya’s central lake, which is said to turn bathers beautiful.

Kakku Festival
Where: Kakku, Pa’O Self-Administered Zone, Shan State
When: March

The pagoda field of Kakku is a wonder any time of the year but is particularly enchanting when the locals are celebrating. In March, the Kakku Pagoda Festival attracts the ethnic groups of the Pa’O, Palaung, Lishaw, Dano and of course the Shan.

Shwedagon Pagoda Festival
Where: Yangon
When: March

This five-day festival leading up to the full moon sees teams of weavers compete to loom the largest amount of cloth to donate to the monks. Over all the days, hundreds flock to Yangon’s glittering wonder to donate water and flowers to the Buddha images both on the pagoda terrace as well as in the surrounding gardens.

Full Moon Day of Tabaung
Where: Countrywide
When: March

This Myanmar festival sees all the pagodas in the country attract locals and pilgrims to their terrace to partake in offerings, donations and gentle festivities.

Maung Dong Nat Festival
Where: Monywa, Sagaing Division
When: March

This nat festival is flamboyant celebration of all things witch. The festival commemorates Ye Kin Kadaw, the Queen of Witches, and one time favourite wife of King Taung Un. Ye Kin had extraordinary powers, but was uncared for by the king’s other wives. For this reason she was sent into exile to Maung Dong where she was later found drowned. A statue of Ye Kin - just 30 cm high - can be viewed at Maung Dong at the festival in March where all 37 nat are placed on shrines for devotees to offer bananas, green coconuts, betel leaves, colourful arrangements of flowers and money bouquets.

Ah-Lone Festival
Where: Monywa, Sagaing Division
When: March

On the Shwebo Road just 12 kilometres north of Monywa, the town of Ah-Lone celebrates Ma Ngwe Daung (Sister Silver Wings), the daughter of Ah-Lone Bodaw, a minor Indian Prince. The festival, one of the more odd Myanmar festivals, is a celebration of Ngwe Daung’s love life and festival-goers prey for the opportunity to have as many mistresses as hairs on their head.

Mann Shwe Settaw Pagoda Festival
Where: Magway Division
When: March-April

Mann Shwe Sattaw Pagoda Festival is one of the largest pagoda festivals in Upper Myanmar. Mann Shwe Settaw is 36 miles from Magway and is bedecked in stools and stands during festival time. Pilgrims and festival-goers can also bathe in the Mann Creek.

Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival
Where: Bago
When: March-April

A classic pagoda festival at the tallest paya in the country, at Shwemawdaw one will be able to view entertainment as well as browse goods ranging from toys to clothes to models and ornaments. Bago is only a couple of hours from Yangon, so a trip to the festival can easily be made when staying in the quasi-capital.

Thingyan New Year Water Festival, Yangon, Myanmar | Soe Lu

Thingyan Water Festival, Myanmar New Year
Where: Countrywide
When: April

Though many festivals are limited to certain townships of localities, there is nowhere in Myanmar, from the suburbs of Mandalay to the mountains of Chin State, where the inhabitants do not fervently take part in the Thingyan Water Festival of Myanmar; five days of festivities leading up to the Burmese New Year on April 17.

Essentially a religious occasion for people to cleanse themselves of sin, for many the Myanmar water festival is simply a chance to enjoy a massive water fight. Whereas a century ago urchins would squirt water out of pipettes made from bamboo, nowadays brightly coloured water guns are in use and hoses and hydrants are implemented by the more industrious. The act of throwing water over one another symbolises the coolness and clearness of the new year as well as ridding oneself of the dirt and grime of the last year. Save for monks and nuns, no-one - including prim foreigners - escapes a good drenching when out on the streets of Myanmar at the Thingyan Festival. And, indeed, no one would want to as, besides being a lot of fun and a relief from the scorching April sun, to be ‘wetted’ as a foreigner should be regarded as a great privilege.

Popa Ceremony
Where: Mount Popa
When: April

During Thingyan, pilgrims from all over the country make their way to Mount Popa near to Bagan to pay their respects to Popa’s nat shrines.

Shite-Thaung Pagoda Festival
Where: Mrauk U, Rakhine State
When: April-May

This pagoda festival is much the same as the other pagoda festivals throughout the country, however it also includes a competition of traditional Rakhine boxing, gyin-wei, which the people of Rakhine proclaim to be much tougher than the Burmese let-wei.

Kason Sacred Bo Tree Watering Ceremony
Where: Countrywide
When: May

Commemorating the day the Buddha was born, the day he attained enlightenment, and the day of his passing, the Kason Sacred Bo Tree Watering Ceremony falls on the day of the full moon of Kason in the Myanmar calendar, early May in the Gregorian calendar. Visitors go to pagodas to chant Pali scripts and water the sacred Bo Trees, the specie of tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

Sand Stupa Festival
Where: Pa Le` Ngwe Yaung, Mandalay
When: May

In three different quarters of Mandalay (Pa Le’ Ngwe Yaung, Yahai, and Min Thar Su), over the course of one night sand stupas are built supported by bamboo mats and posts. Visitors to this Myanmar festival come to lay offerings and donations around the stupas.

Shwe Kyet Yet Event
Where: Amarapura, Mandalay Region
When: May

Similar to the Kason Sacred Bo Tree Watering Ceremony, the Shwe Kyet Yet Event sees locals pouring scented water on Bo Trees, the specie of tree under with the Lord Buddha gained enlightenment.

Thi-Ho-Shin Pagoda Festival
Where: Pakokku, Magway Region
When: May-June

A classic pagoda festival with a market and stages for entertainment in the evening. Zat pwe - performances of dance drama - and anyeint - shows melding instrumental musical and comedy routines - are put on to entertain festival-goers throughout the day and into the night.

Chinlone Festival
Where: Mahamuni Paya, Mandalay
When: June-July

The annual tournament for chinlone or ‘cane ball’ (a Burmese version of ‘keepy-uppy’) is held in Mandalay, at the Mahamuni Pagoda. For a month, chinlone players from throughout the country come to compete in the competition, both in teams and as individuals. Large crowds come out to watch and local folk music is played to entertain the audience between matches.

The Waso Festival
Where: Countrywide
When: June-July

This countrywide Myanmar festival commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon and marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent. During the months of Buddhist Lent, members of the Sangha - monks, novices and nuns - retreat into the monasteries and nunneries. The ‘Waso robes’ are donated to them by the lay community for use during Lent.

Lawkananda Pagoda Festival
Where: New Bagan
When: July-August

Lawkanandar is one of the finest pagodas to be found in New Bagan, a village on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy only a short drive from Old Bagan and the Archeological Zone. The pagoda is still used as an everyday place of worship and due to the sweeping riverside views the pagoda festival at Lawkanandar is one of the most picturesque in the country.

Shwe Kyun Pin Nat Pwe
Where: Mingun, Mandalay
When: Myanmar month of Wargaung, August

According to legend, after having lost four of his six children in a battle against the Sawbwa (‘prince’ or ‘lord’) of Hsipaw, the two remaining children of King Mindon’s younger brother were struck by a tree trunk and drowned in the Shweli River at Thit Maik Myun while attending a boat race. Their mother subsequently died of heartbreak, and the two deceased children were declared to be nat guardians, and are now the keepers of the river. At this Myanmar festival, after the harvest in August each year, people from the surrounding villagers come to offer donations at the shrines temporarily housed in large tents, while nat mediums entertain the crowd.

Taungbyone Ceremony
Where: Taungbyone, Mandalay Region
When: 14th waxing day of Wargaung, August

This festival is the largest and most famous nat festival in the entirety of the country. It is held to celebrate the legend of the nat brothers, Byat Wi and Byat Ta, who after eating the body of a dead alchemist adopted extraordinary powers. Byat Ta went on to marry Mae Wunna, known as the ‘mother nat’ or ‘Mother of Popa.’ Byat Ta worked in the gardens of King Anawrahta and was executed by the king one day for failing to bring back flowers. Byat Ta, who had a weakness for the scent of flowers, had spent the whole day sniffing the botany and forgot to collect any for his liege. Byat Ta and Mae Wunna’s two sons were taken into Anawrahta’s court. Initially favourites of the king, they were also killed when Anawrahta was tricked by a jealous son into believing that the two adopted boys had neglected to bring a brick each for the construction of the Pagoda of Wishes. Later wracked by guilt and regret, in their memory Anawrahta built a shrine at Taungbyone, the place of their execution. Today, the Pagoda of Wishes still stands, with two bricks missing.

Taungbyone Festival is very popular with the youth of Mandalay, and has also become a natural meeting place for the country’s LGBT community. There are nat-medium dressed up and outrageous, little shows taking place and plenty of food stalls and market stands. The festival is made up of a large number of tents and it is worthy simply dipping your nose into as many as you can to see what you may stumble across.

Pwint Phyu Fish Feeding Festival
Where: Pwint Phyu, Magway Region
When: August

One of the more curious Myanmar festivals, the Pwint Phyu Fish Feeding Festival actually lasts throughout the rainy season but is best attended in the middle of August. Locals believe that the gigantic catfish that are only seen at this time of year are making an appearance to pay their own homage to Buddha at the Kyaungdawya Pagoda in Pwint Phyu. Therefore, those who have come to visit the Kyaungdawya will also take part in feeding the writhing pilgrims in the water, usually from the banks of the Mone Canal.

Bagan Boat Racing
Where: Bagan
When: August

In August visitors to Myanmar can watch the traditional Burmese boat races on the Ayeyarwaddy at Bagan. Races in the Burmese longboats is a pastime that goes back centuries, and although not as common as it was before British rule, today it remains one of the most popular spectacles in Myanmar.

Mya Zadi Pagoda Festival
Where: Bagan
When: August

Here at the Mya Zadi Pagoda Festival in Bagan, visitors can watch locals and pilgrims offering food to the pagoda as well as traditional doll making.

Yaduna Gu Nat Festival
Where: Amarapura, Mandalay Region
When: September

On her way back to Mount Popa from Taungbyone where a shrine was constructed for her two murdered sons, Mae Wunna, known as the ‘mother nat’ and ‘Mother of Popa’, stopped by Yadana Gu. In her honour there is now an annual nat festival which one can reach by hiring a rowing boat on the river.

Manuha Pagoda Festival
Where: Myinkaba, Bagan
When: Full moon day of Tawthalin, September

This festival takes places at the Manuha Pagoda, one of the finest temples in the Bagan region, designed and built by the prisoner Mon King Manuha. The Manuha Pagoda Festival is followed by the Holy Man Festival, or Bodaw Gu Hutet Pwe, on the waning day of Tawthalin, at Mount Popa, allowing pilgrims to attend both festivals.

Shwe Kyet Yet Boat Racing Festival
Where: Amarapura, Mandalay Region
When: September

This boat racing competition has taken place in Amarapura since the Court of Ava ruled from the nearby town of Inwa, over two hundred years ago. The festival’s intention is to support the monks during the war dwin, commonly referred to as ‘Buddhist Lent’. Each team represents a different village of the vicinity. The boats are roughly 4.2 by 1.6 metres and carry ten rowers. The races are governed by 40 rules including a ban on mocking competitors and drinking alcohol. If a participant falls into the water, his team is automatically disqualified.

Boe Boe Gyi Nat Festival
Where: Taungthaman Lake, Amarapura, Mandalay Region
When: September-October

This Myanmar festival is in honour of Boe Boe Gyi, an accomplished alchemist who became a nat after his death. The festival commences with a raucous tea-leaf fight, those that are hit being compelled to return to the festival the following year.

Indein Pagoda Festival
Where: Indein, Inle Lake
When: October

The Indein Pagoda Festival is held at the old village of Indein, reachable over Inle Lake with a boat boarded at Nyaung Shwe. Indein boasts a large number of ancient shrines and stupas, all in varying stages of decay, amidst which the festival takes place.

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, Inle Lake, Shan State | Valeria Trott

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
Where: Inle Lake
When: October

The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival sees four of the five Buddha images of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, ferried from village to village over the course of three weeks. The images are carried over Inle Lake in a traditional Burmese barge in the form of the mythical bird the karaweik. The barge is pulled along by a score of Intha ‘hundred-man boats’, the rowers upon which are each from a particular village on and around the lake. Flags, bells, and - more recently - ghetto blasters are attached to the boats, making the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival one of the most lively and visually spectacular festivals in Myanmar.

Dummy Elephant Festival
Where: Kyauk Se, Mandalay Region
When: October

At this festival two life-size elephants are made out of paper and bamboo, one black and one white and both richly adorned with decorations. Men climb inside the elephants and dance around the town to the accompaniment of drums.

Thadingyut, Festival of Lights
Where: Countrywide
When: Waxing day of Thadingyut, October

Celebrated countrywide, Thadingyut the Festival of Lights sees houses, shops and pagodas throughout the country adorn themselves with candles in the evening of the first waxing day of the month of Thadingyut. The initial day of the festival is more sombre than many of the other Myanmar festivals; Thadingyut is a kind of Buddhist thanksgiving and a chance to pay homage to monks, teachers, parents and all elders. If in Myanmar for Thadingyut, one should make sure they make their way to a pagoda, to see the stupas and terrace lit up by the flames of hundreds of candles.

In the following days Thadingyut takes the form of more commonplace pagoda festival with stalls and street performances. In Hsipaw, Thadingyut directly precedes their Mahamuni Pagoda Festival. A funfare fit with carousel and ferris wheel is set up nearby the pagoda while the main street through the town becomes congested with the procession of offerings. The people of Hsipaw make bamboo constructions to carry their donations - food, money, anything that can fall into the broad category of ‘special things’ - to the pagoda. The men and boys of the town carry the constructions and when a halt in the procession comes (in fact there are more halts than progression) spin the constructions around in a circle in an alarming but thrilling manner. All dressed up and often wearing bandanas and having applied thick eyeliner, the men and boys of Hsipaw dance hysterically to the music blasting out of boom boxes.

Dummy Elephant Festival, Kyauk Se, Myanmar | Valeria Trott

Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock) Festival
Where: Kyaikhto, Mon State
When: October

Taking place in concordance with Thadingyut, at Mon State’s Kyaikhtiyo Festival, 9, 000 candles and 9, 000 flowers are donated to the Buddha at the pagoda at the summit of the mountain. There are trucks taking pilgrims up and down Mt. Kyaikhtiyo, however many foreigners may prefer to take part in the authentic early morning 11 kilometre hike up to the top. If nothing else, you will find yourself in jolly company, surrounded by the infectious anticipation on festival day.

Myathalon Pagoda Festival
Where: Magway
When: October-November

The Magway Myathalon Pagoda is situated near to the banks of the Ayeyarwady river. The scenery is particularly striking at this part of Magway, and the golden stupa of Myathalon particularly beautiful.

Kyauk Daw Gyi Pagoda Festival
Where: Mandalay
When: October-November

This pagoda festival takes place at the foot of Mandalay Hill. During the festival there are plenty of stalls and stands selling locally produced goods.

Where: Countrywide
When: November

Homes and pagodas are illuminated at this second festival of light, usually better attended than the first due to the monsoon having passed. Monks are provided with robes and other donations (the giving is known as ''kahtain'), and festival-goers make and share mixed salads of maezali buds, believed to possess magical properties when eaten at this time of year.

Taunggyi Hot Air Balloon Festival
Where: Taunggyi, Shan State
When: November

Taunggyi’s Hot Air Balloon Festival is for good reason the most famous Myanmar festival after Thingyan water festival. Tazaungdaing is celebrated throughout the country, but the festival activities in Taunggyi are famous for their flamboyancy and recklessness. Leading up to the festival much sweat and expertise is expended on the creation of the most beautiful hot air balloons. Throughout the festival, these balloons are set off day and night. While those in the day are usually designed in the form of a pagoda or animal, those in the evening are of the conventional shape, but attached to their sides are multicoloured paper lanterns as well as fireworks which fire off once the balloon has been released.

Thadingyut Festival, Novice monk at Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar | Marie StarrTaunggyi Hot Air Balloon Festival, Shan State, Myanmar

Thanboddhay Pagoda Ceremony
Where: Monywa, Sagaing Region
When: November

The pagoda complex of Thanboddhay appears like a funfair throughout the year with twisting spiral staircases and a temple that looks like something out of Disney. At its annual festival, visitors can sample the local thanaka and sandalwood as well as woven textiles such as cotton blankets and longyi and thamain.

Shin Mar Le Pagoda Festival
Where: Thazi, Mandalay Region
When: November

The Shin Mar Le Pagoda Festival is celebrated at the time of Tazadaung, with people throwing lotus flowers to the top of the stupa

Robe Weaving Contests
Where: Countrywide
When: November

These occur throughout Myanmar on the night before the full moon. Groups of women work on saffron robes known as ma tho thin gan until dawn. All the robes are offered to the Buddha image, and following this a prize giving ceremony takes place.

Shwezigon Festival
Where: Bagan
When: November-December

At the protracted Shwezigon Pagoda Festival in Bagan, visitors will be able to view traditional zats - performances incorporating dance and live music - and anyeints - theatrics of a more comedic disposition. On the full moon day of November, there is a communal food offering and various domestic articles are donated to the monastery.

Shwe Myat Mhan Pagoda Festival
Where: Shwe Taung, near Pyay, Bago Region
When: November-December

This pagoda festival is much like the others in Myanmar, but comes with the curious tale of Mrs Hurtno, wife of the one-time British commissioner in Pyay, who after donating her pair of glasses to the Buddha at the Shwe Myat Mhan Pagoda Festival, found that her eyesight was completely restored. People with their own eye complaints now commonly come to the Shwe Myat Mhan Pagoda in the hope of a similar miracle.

Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda Festival
Where: Sagaing
When: November-December

After Mandalay, Sagaing is the spiritual hub of Buddhism in Myanmar, home to an estimated 5, 000 monks and 3, 000 nuns. The Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda Festival is thus pious and busy. Foreign visitors may enjoy seeing all the bullock carts that are used to bring both people and produce to and from the pagoda.

Mount Popa Nat Festival
Where: Mount Popa
When: December

Mount Popa is the home of the 37 Myanmar spirit guardians, the nat. This festival is even more flamboyant and raucous than the pagoda festivals. Though the mass animal sacrifices no longer take place, this festival is renown for ‘spirit possession’ and ‘drunken ecstasy.’

Akha New Year
When: December
Where: Kyaing Tong, Shan State

The Akha are one of the ethnic peoples living along the Salween River and around the capital of Eastern Shan State Kyaing Tong. Once a year, all the Akha villagers descend down from the hills to congregate on the football pitch at the centre of the town to dance and sing. The following day the participants have a long breakfast that turns into a longer lunch, wishing everyone a prosperous new year.