October is an exciting month in Myanmar. The three-month Buddhist Lent is over, the rain has ceased and everything is clean and bright. Festivals take place throughout the country and popular destinations are packed with tourists. This year the full moon day of Thadingyut is 31 October.

With the pandemic in full swing, all the festivities seem to be gone due to social distancing guidelines. Anyway, we have an Online Festivals Series in collaboration with Exploration Travel where we share a short story and pictures about each festival at the time it is supposed to take place but cannot due to COVID-19. We invite you to add your own pictures, stories and memories of the festival.

These are the festivals for October:

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival (17 Oct)

Festivals in October 2020
Credit: Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is celebrated at the Inle Lake. The revellers parade with an ornamented boat carrying Buddha images. The boat stops at each village so the villagers can pay homage. You can buy all sorts of indeginous flowers and local food at the floating market. The boat race is the centre of attraction.  

Festival of Lights (30 Oct – 1 Nov)

Festivals in October 2020
Thadingyut at Shwedagon-monks light some of the 9000 candles (Credit: Marie Starr)

The holiest of the festivals in Myanmar. Thadingyut Light Festival is held for three days throughout the country. Within these days, the believers decorate their homes with lanterns and lights to welcome the Buddha who descends from heaven. 

Lore has it that Buddha’s mother Maya died seven days after giving birth to him and reincarnated as a deva in heaven. To express his gratitude Buddha ascends to heaven and preaches Abhidharma sermon to the deva during the Lent. He comes back to earth on the full moon day of Thadingyut. 

Following his steps, Buddhists pay homage to their parents, teachers and elders during Thadingyut as an expression of gratitude. 

Kaungmu Daw Pagoda Festival (5 days around the full moon day)

Festivals in October 2020
Credit: Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

This festival takes place at the Kaungmu Daw Pagoda in Sagaing. Villagers and farmers surround the pagoda compound, selling farm produce and traditional crafts. Tourists can jump back in time as they immerse themselves in the festival that features the traditional environment of Sagaing Region. Vendors donate a huge chunk of profits to the pagoda and monks. In the midst of the bustling market, monks recite sermons to honour the pagoda.

Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda Festival (30 Oct)

Festivals in October 2020
Credit: Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

During this festival, Mandalay villagers and visitors all over Myanmar come to Mandalay to pay respects to the marble Buddha image at Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda. The celebrations involve carnival activities and traditional religious ceremonies. Tourists may find interesting souvenirs and handicrafts at the market by the temple.

Dancing Elephants Festival (30 Oct – 1 Nov)

Festivals in October 2020
Credit: Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

Relax. This festival doesn’t violate any animal rights. Two men get inside a giant ornamented elephant costume and dance to the festive traditional music. It’s harder than it sounds. The two men must carefully synchronise their moves and be strong enough to carry the heavy costume made of bamboo and paper. The dance is homage to Shwe Thar Lyaung Pagoda.

Shwe Kyin Light Festival (1 Nov)

Festivals in October 2020
Credit: Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

Although this festival falls on 1 November, we count it as the October festival since it takes place the day after the full moon day. Held by the Shwe Kyin creek in Bago, the festival is divided into two sessions. The residents begin the festival with a boat race in the morning. The race is open to both men and women. At night, thousands of festival-goers father and float paper lanterns on the river. This ritual is believed to bring good luck and fortune. The fireworks display is a bonus! Imagine how scenic it will be. 

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