This year marks the 100th anniversary of National Day. The commemoration is meant to celebrate the Burmese students who protested against colonial education.
What is it?
The roots of National Day date back to the colonial era.
In July 1920, the British colonial government proposed the Rangoon University Acts. Although Burmese people denounced that the six-clause bill did not serve people from all social classes, the then lieutenant governor Sir Reginald Craddock approved it.
So, 11 Rangoon University students held a demonstration on the Shwedagon Pagoda compound on 3 December. Then the students organised a 26-member committee and decided not to go back to classrooms until there were reforms.
On 5 December (the 10th day after the Tazaungmone Full-moon Day), 500 students from Judson College and 500 from Rangoon University held a strike. This spark started a fire throughout the nation and many other people including highschoolers also joined in.
The movement also gave birth to the establishment of national schools that taught in Burmese language (but the minority languages were still left out of the classrooms) since the imperial schools that time forbid the usage of mother tongue.
How it came to know as National Day
It was not a straightaway decision to choose this particular day as National Day.
In 1921, the General Council of Burmese Associations (GCBA) organised a conference in Mandalay where a proposal to celebrate a National Day was on the table. Three significant events were chosen as finalists after some debates: the day the Arakanese monk U Ottama was jailed, the day King Thibaw abdicated his throne and the day the students’ protest began.
Then in June 1922, the GCBA settled on the third option and regarded the 10th waning day of Tazaungmone as the National Day.
The first National Day was celebrated nationwide on 13 November 1922. Since it was a weekday, the celebrations did not see much turnout. So, the day was regarded as a holiday for schools starting from 1934. It became a national holiday starting from 1938.
How it is celebrated
Usually, schools organise student debates and literature events around the education system and Myanmar’s colonial past. Staged performances and public lectures are also common. Each state and region celebrate this day in their own fashion. Due to the measures against pandemic, there will be no public events this year.