Myanmar’s biggest and most popularfestival is Thingyan, the traditional New Year Water Festival, which is celebrated for four days according to the traditional Myanmar calendar. In leap years, the Thingyan festival lasts for five days.
People celebrate Thingyan in various ways, but the main feature is water throwing. People believethat Thingyan water has the power to wash away the bad habits, evil and sins of the past year.
Almost everywhere in the country during Thingyan, people party atopstructures known as pandals (or man dat) and throwwater at each other.
In Yangon, the decorated pandals are put upalong streets such as Pyay Road and Kabaraye Pagoda Road, and throughout the downtown area. Some feature traditional dance performanceswhile others stage electronic dance music (EDM) festivals.
Open-top jeeps and pick-up trucks with families and groups of friends drive by the pandals to throw water and to see the singers and dancers.
In recent years, groups of local young people have organized a different way to celebrate Thingyan: Yangon Splash Walk.
Yangon Splash Walk began in 2016.Participants walk around downtown Yangon with their own water guns, and spraying water over the crowdsof peoplewalking along the street.
“Yangon Splash Walk is just a public activity that aims to revive the old feeling of the traditional Myanmar Thingyan, and we hope everyone can participate in this festival,” said Kaung Sithu, a founder of the event.
“There are many pandal that are seen as trendy places to celebrateThingyan, and charge for tickets. These are fine and some youth prefer this option. But other people prefer to celebrate Thingyan as it always was. That’s whyYSW was launched; we would like to revive memories of the old,polite traditional Thingyan celebration.”
Yangon Splash Walk has been held on the last day of Thingyan every year since 2016,with the walks mostly located around the downtown area. Each year the event has had a different theme.
This year YSW plans to celebrate the last day of Thingyanby highlighting the way the holiday has been celebrated in different eras.
“Thingyan has been celebrated in different ways throughout Myanmar’s history and we want to highlight those this year. The eras [focused on] are the Bagan, Konbaung, colonial and contemporaryeras,” he said.
There’ll be four stops corresponding to these eras. Each one will be decorated accordingly, with an appropriate performance. Performers at each stop will be waiting for YSW participants at each stop, wearing costumes from the era.
“It’s more like a performance, because there’ll be musical performancesarranged by musician Ko Diramore. I thinkit’ll be fun and enjoyable, while enabling a new generation to learn how people celebrated Thingyan in those different eras. They’ll be able to see what people wore and what the traditional music of the era was like,”Kaung Sithu said.
YSW groups usually walk around the downtown area, starting from Maharbandoola Park, then moving to Kyauktada Township, Bo Aung Kyaw Road, Anawrahta Road, Maharbandoola Road and Merchant Road.
“This year, we considered walking around Tawmway Township, but we are still trying to get permission from authorities to walk around downtown. So, we will announce the venues on our Facebook page.”
The first YSW drew about 3,000 people. The theme was Kaung Sithu;a team led participants around Yangon’s colonial-era buildings, explaining the history of the structures along the way.
In 2017, Yangon didn’t issue permits to build big pandals; EDM festivals like the Thingyan Music Festival (TMF), Wet Nation, Road to Water Zonic and so on were popular.
So, Kaung Sithu and the team headed to the narrow lanes between buildings in parts of the downtown area. That year, YSW drew about 10,000 participants, showing that the concept introduced the previous year had become a popular one. Kaung Sithu started YSW based on the idea that he wanted to bring back traditional Thingyan feelings, and open up Thingyan to many different types of people.
In 2017 Mandalay City also celebrated Thingyan by allowing people to walkaround the city and splash water, and it turned out to be a big celebration.
“I’m so happy about that, and hope more cities will celebrate the Thingyan like us, soeveryone can enjoy Thingyan and it will become a civilized traditional festival again,” Kaung Sithu said.
So, what are you waiting for? If you don’t have any ideas for this year’s Thingyan, and don’t want to go to a pandal, but still want to celebrate,go buy a water gun and check the updated information on Yangon Splash Walkat their Facebook page of the same name — and enjoy!
Happy Myanmar New Year!