Article by: Kyi Shinn Khin
Image credits: Pinterest
In a diverse community like ISS, we may be aware of a lot of different festivals that happen in the countries of our fellow peers. Just in April, there were quite a number of countries, particularly in the region of Southeast Asia, that celebrated the New Year, through a variety of unique festivals. As I come from Myanmar, I will be talking specifically about how my celebrate New Year in my home country, which is quite different from the New Year celebrations that most of us are aware of.
To start off, while the Burmese people do use the Gregorian Calendar, traditionally we use our own traditional calendar. It follows the same structure as a Gregorian Calendar, however, the months and days are a bit different. We celebrate our New Year on the full moon day in the month of Tagu, which would mark around the second week of April on the Gregorian Calendar. The New Year for us can be different depending on the year.
There is a legend that on the day we celebrate New Year, the nats (spirits) descend down to Earth to attend the festivals that we celebrate. In addition, as young children, we were told by our elders that the king of the nats, Thagyamin, writes down the names of good children on a gold sheet, but the children who did not behave very well will have their names written on dog leather. Even as a teenager, this traditional folklore has a very special place in my heart, for my grandmother would tell me this every New Year.
There are many different things that we would do during the New Year. One of the things that most people do on New Year’s is to visit temples and pagodas, or invite monks to our houses for spiritual offerings. Often during New Year’s we like to make religious offerings, such as making donations. We would also eat traditional snacks like mont lone yay paw (traditional sweet rice balls), and one of the most “famous” ways that we celebrate the New Year is with a Water Festival, which we call Thingyan. Water festivals are also a popular tradition amongst Southeast Asia, such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. We think of the water festival as a way to wash away all of the bad things that happened the year before, and start fresh to welcome the new year. In addition to the traditional way of shaking a sprig of thapyay leaf with water on someone’s shoulders, we also like to have a lot of fun — during this time period, we just like to have water fights with our good friends and family members, and whenever you go out, your car will always return soaked!
The water festival is truly a fun event where we like to celebrate the New Year. While it is only a few days, it is one of the times that we Burmese people enjoy the most, for schools are closed, offices are closed, and everyone can just have fun for about 3 days. How do you celebrate your New Year’s?
The Myanmar Times. (2018). The legend of Thagyamin. [online] Available at: https://www.mmtimes.com/special-features/178-thingyan-2014/10031-the-legend-of-thagyamin.html [Accessed 31 May 2018].