Myanmar is a land of festivals and holidays throughout the year. Most festivals are based on cultural, religious affairs and the dates of these festivals are determined by the lunar calendar. That said, out of the three public holidays in March, two is for commemoration and one is religious, cultural based.
Peasants’ Day (Taung-thu-lal-tha-mar Day)
Myanmar celebrates Peasants’ Day March 2 every year. It is a public holiday and commemorates the anniversary of General Nay Win’s coup in 1962. Nay Win was a military commander and socialist dictator of Myanmar. He served two terms as the country’s Prime Minister from 1958 to 1960 and another on 1962 to 1974. On March 2, 1962, he seized power in a coup and became the self-proclaimed leader of Myanmar. The entire peasantry before 1965 experienced usury and inappropriate exploitation over the use of agricultural land. Farmlands were rented and many of the farmers cannot keep up with the rising cost of land rent. During this time, laws were passed to protect the farmers against this practice and led to massive land law reforms and among them is the passing of the law protecting farmers against land renting. These acts were all made under the military administration of Nay Win and the laws are in place until today.
The farming sector occupies around 70 percent of Myanmar’s population and undoubtedly the largest workforce in the country. Myanmar recognizes the powerful role of farmers in driving the country’s economic output. However, it is the farming sector, which usually suffers whenever a power struggle happens in the country because rebels usually went into the jungles of Myanmar to avoid prosecution and seek protection.
During this holiday, Myanmar’s local leaders organize talks about de
velopment programs they had laid down for the improvement of the farming sector. Families and individuals may choose to remain inside home or visit the local parks, pagodas and temples in the area. Also, trade and cultural shows celebrate around the country showcasing traditional crafts, culture and arts.
Myanmar Armed Forces Day (Tat-madaw Day)
Myanmar celebrates Armed Forces Day on March 27 every year. It is a public holiday and it was originally established as Resistance Day to commemorate the anniversary of the start of the resistance against the Japanese occupation in 1945. Japanese ruled Myanmar from 1942 until 1945. By then it had become clear to General Aung San that the Japanese had no intention of handing Myanmar back to its people. On March 27, 1945, he helped the World War II Allied forces remove the Japanese from power. Myanmar military has made it a tradition to pardon several prisoners on Armed Forces Day.
The official name of Myanmar Armed Forces is the Tatmadaw, composing of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Myanmar Tatmadaw is administered by the country’s Ministry of Defense. Armed Forces Day is held with grand military parade. The armed forces showcase fighter jets, tanks, long-range artilleries, missiles and helicopters. Myanmar will mark its 71st Armed Forces Day in March 2016.
Full Moon Day of Tabaung (March 23)
Full Moon of Tabaung is a Buddhist festival that celebrated on the full moon day on the twelfth month of Myanmar lunar calendar. The first 15 days in the month of Tabaung are still cool, as the cool season has not ended yet. But the latter 15 days become hot as summer reenters. According to Myanmar saying, it is hot during daytime and cool during nighttime. It is in this month that the country is in the most colorful month and the best time to experience the spiritual traditions of the Myanmar people. This is similar to “Makha Bucha Day” of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
It is also said that toddy juice from toddy palm trees are collected and boiled in large pots. Boiling of toddy juice is spoken as “Htan baung” in Myanmar so that this month is known as the month Tabaung and later became “Tabaung”. According to Myanmar astrology, the month is “Mein Yarthi” or Pisces with two fishes as its symbol. The seasonal flower is Tharaphi. During this season, the rivers ebb and many sand banks emerged.
Tabaung is also the month of pagoda festivals. The harvest is safely completed and people can look forward to leisure days ahead. This month is characterized by seasonal changes, many trees shredding their leaves.
People held festivals on the riverside at which stupa (“zaydi” in Myanmar language) made up of sand are built. In Yangon, the Tabaung festival is celebrated every year at the Shwedagon Pagoda. The almsgiving ceremony for the honoured Sayadaws (Buddhist monks) is held on the morning of Full Moon Day of Tabaung. The Full Moon Day of Tabaung is the delight of all Myanmar Buddhists.