Thingyan – Myanmar’s traditional water festival

Usually falls around mid-April (the Burmese month of Tagu), Thingyan or New Year Water Festival is the most important celebration of Myanmar people.


In Burmese, Thingyan means “change”, the change of the old year to the New Year, old life to new life, old circle to new circle. It is a Buddhist festival celebrated over a period of four to five days culminating in the New Year. Formerly the dates of the Thingyan festival are calculated according to the traditional Burmese lunisolar calendar, but now fixed to Western calendar 13 to 16 April; it often coincides with Easter.

Wandering around Myanmar’s streets these days, tourists will be immersed in the Burmese tradition and culture, with plentiful activities, spiritual customs along with original religious nuances. Good humor and being-friendly prevail all over the festival accompanying best wishes.

Burmese girls perform traditional dance during closing ceremony of Myanmar New Year Water Festival 2011 in Yangon, Myanmar
Burmese girls perform traditional dance during closing ceremony of Myanmar New Year Water Festival 2011 in Yangon, Myanmar

The first day called Thingyan Eve (A kyo nei) is the start of a variety of religious activities. People bring alms and traditional offerings to pagodas and monasteries; carry out the Buddha statue bathing ceremony with fragrant water. By night, the real fun begins with music, song and dance.

The water festival will truly begin from the second day called A Kya nei. Local people welcome Thaya Min God from the heaven down to the earth on his annual visit. After booming of cannon as signal announcing the God’s arrival, the family’s owner lift up pots containing scented flowers and leaves toward the sky as a welcome gesture of homage. Then, it is the time for water throwing and other funny activities. People with buckets, pots and cans of water splashes to any passer-by. Powerful water pipes, decorated cars and carts are everywhere to douse crowds. Some groups fight each other by water pistols. In big cities, even fire hoses, hoses and hydrants in gardens are also used. No one escape from drenching including foreigners except monks, elders, sick ones and pregnant women. The atmosphere is animated with performances of puppets, choirs, farce, plays, dance and music. Local damsels apply thanaka on face, pin sweet scented yellow padaukflowerson hair and dance on streets.


On the final day (A-tet nei), throwing water to others still keep on but in a more courteous way with an apology, something like “Thagya Min God left his water tube and he will come back to get it.” To see out Thagya Min God back to the heaven, the family’s owner pour out slowly water from pots to the ground, accompanying prayers for fortune, good rainfall and good harvest for the New Year.

The next day is New Year’s Day (Hnit Hsan Ta Yet Nei), the day for traditional customs. Fish and many other animals are released back to nature with the wish: “I release you once; you will release me ten times!” The young wash hair for the elderly in the traditional manner with shampoo beans and barks of acacia rugata tree, offer them terracotta pots of water and fragrant soaps. Young girls attend to the manicure and hair washing ceremony hold for the most senior citizens. Old ladies are given paste of sandalwood or thanaka.

Thingyan Water Festival

Making a trip to Myanmar during this time will be unique chance for you to experience the rich culture of local people. Below are some our recommendations to have your journey perfect.

  • During the time of festival, offices, banks, public transports… all are closed. However domestic airlines are still available. You should spend a day before and after the water festival due to the transportation services are full by locals.
  • Prepare plastic bags or waterproof bags to protect your electronic devices from water! Easy-to-dry clothing are also advisable.
  • As it is the biggest festival in the year of the country, so be prepared for any possibility of service changes and alternatives.

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