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Myanmar New Year (Thingyan) festival culture and food

Thingyan new year

Myanmar New Year Thingyan festival (water festival) is coming soon. The water festival is the New Year’s celebrations that take place in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. It is called water festival because people splash at one another as part of the cleansing ritual to welcome the New Year. The water symbolizes the washing away of the previous year’s bad luck and sins and the act of pouring water is also a show of blessings and good wishes.

Myanmar New Year, Thingyan Festival is usually falls in April. The dates of the Thingyan Festival dates are calculated according to the Burmese calendar and they are as public holidays throughout Myanmar.

Many flowers bloom in this time of the year and Padauk is the most special among them. Padauk is a small yellow flowers that bloom on little stems and this yellow flower looks very pretty. Padauk is the typical flower in Thingyan.

There are almost five day in Thingyan. They are Akyo Day (welcoming to the god of sprits) , A Kya Day(Day of god spirits leaves heaven and come down to earth), A kyat Day which is 2 days in some of the year, A Tat Day (god spirits return to heaven) and New year day which is the end of the water festival. During Akyo day to A Tat Day, people enjoy water festival. In New Year’s Day, it is time for people to visit the elders to pay respect. Young people perform hair washing for the elderly with shampoo beans and bark. Some people release fishes into large lakes and river with a prayer and a wish saying ‘I release you once, you release me ten times.’  Thingyan is a time for boys in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism when they will join the monks and spend a short time in a monastery immersed in the teaching of Buddha’s Dhamma. On the New Year’s Day people make food donations at various places.

During the Thingyan days, the mandate, water throwing and playing places are everywhere, not only in cities but also in villages too. In the main city of Yangon and Mandalay, people use water guns, buckets and water hoses to make others wet. Young people would dye their hair to make themselves look cool. They would go around the town in cars to get wet. Some making their own Mandat made with coconut leaves and celebration together the water festival with friends.

At the night time, there has entertainments such as music, songs and Thingyan dance. Everyone happily enjoy in Thingyan festival except monks and obviously pregnant women.

Like many other festivals around the world, Thingyan has its own unique festival foods. The most popular Thingyan foods are Mont Lat Saung, Shwe Yin Aye and Mont Lone Yay Paw. Mont Lat Saung is a type of jelly with cold jaggery juice or coconut milk. Shwe Yin Aye is similar like Mont Lat Saung but it has extra ingredients of bread, sticky rice, and different colours of assorted jellies eating with cold coconut milk. Montloneyaybaw is a floating rice dough ball which had been boiled. In the center it has a piece of jaggery and served with coconut shreds.

It is not only one of most popular food for Thingyan the iconic food that represent the festival. Just to have fun, people who made this dough would put chili instead of jaggery. People would never get angry at each other for it is Burmese New Year and getting wet is a normal thing at Thingyan and everyone can bond while making these treat and eating them.

Another famous food of Thingyan Hta Min (Thingyan Rice) is a legitimate food in the Mon State. This dish is essentially cooked rice in scented water. Rice is cooked and then washed to get a fluty and light texture. Sandalwood is burnt with a wax candle and infused with ice cold water, to give it a fragrant smell.  That cold water is poured on top of the rice and eaten with various side dishes such as dried fish, fried chilies, and mango salads. It is definitely a dish that you should try if you ever around Mon State during water festival.

While Thinngyan is a time for fun, it is also a time for religious reflection. Happy Myanmar New Year for you all !. May this auspicious New Year brings all the best for you.

 

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