With the air becoming colder and thinner, the cold season is upon us. November coincides with Tazaungmone, the eighth month of the Burmese calendar. This year, the full moon day of Tazaungmone falls on 28 November.
Tazaungdaing Festival is held on the full moon day. The believers weave robes the whole night before the full moon day and donate them to the monks the next day. It is called matho thingan. The tradition originates from one of the life events of Buddha.
His mother, Maya, who had been reborn in Tavatimsa Heaven, spent the entire night weaving yellow robes for her son who would soon pursue his quest for enlightenment. This tradition was succeeded by her sister Gotami who became the step-mother to Buddha.
Tazaungdaing is also a festival of light. People throughout the land release hot air balloons lit with candles. They are regarded as offerings to Sulamani cetiya in Tavatimsa, or a way to drive away evil spirits.
On the night of the full moon day, young men celebrate Kyee Ma Noe Pwe (or Occasion before Crows Wake Up) where they steal minor objects from people and play pranks. This tradition stems from the magical beliefs of Myanmar.
During this time, it was believed that young men who receive ritualistic tattoos under the stars on the night of full moon day gain supernatural powers like invisibility, agility, etc. To test whether they possess such powers, they commit petty thefts.
They have to submit whatever they stole at the square in town centre and return them to the owners the next day. If they got caught in the act, they could get their heads shaved and agree to enter monkhood for some time.
This tradition has diminished in cities and only a few rural areas observe.
Another tradition is sharing Melzali Phu (Siamese cassia buds) salads with friends and neighbours since it is deemed to have healing properties on the night of the full moon day.
Many Buddhists donate Kahtein (or Kathina) robes to the monks who stayed at their residences during the Buddhist Lent. Kahtein robes must be offered before the full moon day.
Various parts of Myanmar celebrate Tazaungdaing but the most famous is arguably the Taunggyi hot-air balloon festival.
Since we are nowhere near the end of pandemic, all the festivities are put on hold. 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 November:
Shwesandaw Pagoda Festival in Pyay (28 Nov)
During this time, the residents of Pyay, Bago Region, gather at the Shwesandaw Pagoda that houses the ancient hair relic of the Lord Buddha believed to be brought in from Sri Lanka. The precious relic is only open to attendees to visit on this particular festival, attracting thousands of Buddhists from all corners of the country.
Pho Win Taung Festival in Monywa (27 Nov)
This ceremony begins before the full moon day and takes place for two days. At the market compound of Pho Win Taung Pagoda, vendors will sell various sorts of herbal leaves, roots, fruits, barks, thorns, tubers and stems with medical properties on a large scale.
Shwezigon Pagoda Festival in Bagan (28 Nov)
This festival features a country fair and a traditional religious ceremony. Every November in Nyaung-U, residents open markets near the famed pagoda of Bagan to sell local products. Most of the earnings is donated to Shwezigon Pagoda. There are also interesting stage plays that tell Buddhist lores and the Nat or animist spirits that are worshipped by some locals.
Robe Weaving Festival (night before the full moon day)
This tradition is observed throughout the country. In Yangon, the contestants gather at Shwedagon Pagoda to see who can weave a robe in the shortest time. The robes must be completed within one night, and they are offered to Buddha’s image the next morning.
Hot-air Balloon Festival in Taunggyi
The hot-air balloon festival in Taunggyi, Shan State, is one of the most significant events of Myanmar. Happens every year in November, it usually takes nine days as part of the Tazaungdaing Festival. The hot-air balloons decorated with various candles are launched and the attached fireworks explode mid-air.