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Wednesday, 21st October 2015

Looking ahead to the Tazaungdaing Festival

Tazaungdaing Festival - the Festival of Lights - is one of the highlights of the year in Burma and absolutely not to be missed if you are visiting the country in late November.

Predating even Buddhism, the festival taps into the essential elements of Burmese life, culture and history. 

Just as Christmas was a festival to celebrate the winter solstice, and Easter the dawn of spring, the Tazaungdaing Festival has its roots in the change of the seasons. The festival celebrates the end of the rainy season, a key moment in the Burmese calendar.

But it’s not just about the weather; Tazaungdaing also has immense religious significance. The festival marks the end of the Kathina, or Kahtein, season when monks are offered alms and robes. 

What happens during the Tazaungdaing Festival?

This is a festival of lights, so you expect some pretty spectacular displays at night. Hot air balloons with candles are released into the night sky, creating a memorable and mesmerising spectacle. It’s not dissimilar to the Yi Peng celebrations of northern Thailand.

Crowds gather to set the balloons off, with burning torches and fireworks all part of the party. Balloons can range from the small to the ridiculously large. Whole communities get together for this important event and it’s a real chance to be a part of Burmese tradition and culture.

Of course it’s not just about the lights - the religious element is not to be ignored and this part of the festival offers a fantastic glimpse into Burmese Buddhism. Alms are given and new robes handed out to monks.

As part of this, the Tazaungdaing Festival also sees robe-weaving competitions, with fabulous, flowing yellow robes created for the monks.

These days, the Tazaungdaing Festival is an excuse for a party and a good time as much as anything else. Fairgrounds pop up around the country and all the usual trappings of a celebration can be found where people gather to set off their balloons.

Monks are not immune to the fun and are just as likely to be spotted trying to throw down tin cans at a fairground stall as be seen praying for the end of the rainy season.  

When is the Tazaungdaing Festival?

The Tazaungdaing Festival takes place each year during the full moon of the eighth month of the Burmese calendar. It means it moves around from year to year. In 2015 it is being held on November 25th. Last year it was on November 6th.

Where to experience Tazaungdaing Festiva l

Shan State is probably your best bet for a holiday in Burma that includes the Festival of Lights on the itinerary. Its hot air balloon lights are probably the most famous, but you can find people all over Burma will celebrate what is a very important and widely-observed national holiday.

Related news stories:
A guide to Burmese festivals ? one for every month of the year (6th June 2016)
How to be a vegetarian in Burma (15th October 2015)
How to indulge a sweet tooth in Burma (25th November 2015)
Buddhas of Burma (part one) (6th July 2016)