Festivities in April in Myanmar – Thingyan (Water Festival: 13 – 16 April) – Part 3

Water here, there and everywhere… 

For centuries, the Myanmar people have been celebrating Thingyan by dousing each other liberally with water. Water symbolizes cleanness, is supposed to wash off the impurities of the old year while, at the same time, serving as a welcome coolant amid summer heat and humidity. In the old days, the proper-custom was to carry the scented water in silver bowls and sprinkle each other gently using sprigs and eugenia.

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But things have changed as you can see from the pictures.  In major cities such as Yangon, garden hoses, huge syringes made of bamboo, brass or plastic, water pistols and other devices from which water can be squirted are used in addition to the gentler bowls and cups, but water balloons and even fire hoses are used! It is the hottest time of the year and a good dousing is welcomed by most. Everyone joins in except monks and pregnant women. Young women are often the target of young men.  A practical joke is when soot from cooking pots is smeared on.  Celebrators carry towels to block the jet of water getting into the ear and for modesty’s sake as they get thoroughly soaked and drenched in their light summer clothes. The odd prankster might use ice water and a drive-by splash with this would create shrieks of surprise by their victims.

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At nightfall, another type of fun begins with music, song and dance. In every neighborhood pavilions or stages, with festive names and made from bamboo, wood and beautifully decorated papier mache, have been built. Young girls have rehearsed for weeks, with the approach of Thingyan, song and dance in chorus lines, each band of girls uniformly dressed in colorful tops and skirts (sarongs) and garlanded in flowers and glittering decor.

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Padauk flower blooms annually during Thingyan and is popularly known as the “Thingyan flower”.

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Large crowds, on foot, bicycles and motorbikes, and in open top jeeps and trucks, will do the rounds of all the stages.  Decorated and lit up floats, also with festive names, carry an orchestra as well as a number of women and men on each of them, will roam the streets stopping at every stage exchanging songs specially written for the festival including the classics that everyone knows.

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