Lights, crowds, action!
Yae Kyaw Thadingyut Festival
OUR Festival of Lights celebrates the descent of the Buddha from heaven, after preaching Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya. And we pay respects to our elders, apologising for any sins on our part. But that isn’t going to stop us having fun.
So light the candles and lanterns, set off the fireworks and firecrackers, and enjoy yourself. The heart of Thadingyut in Yangon is the Yae Kyaw festival. How else to explain the crowds?
I never miss the chance to eat various kinds of traditional foods and toys, to join the throngs in the amusement park and fight to the front of the crowd (no queues, please, we’re Myanmar) to clamber onto the human-powered Ferris wheel and the pendulum boat.
The Yae Kyaw festival takes place from October 13 to 17 along Yae Kyaw and Bogyoke streets in Pazundaung township.
“This festival has been held for more than 50 years, except between 2002 and 2010. It all started from Witt Kyaung, Daw Na and Yuzana streets in quarter 8 of Pazundaung with three small stages of make-up artists in the first two years,” said U Aung Naing, 56, one of the organisers of the festival.
“Then, tableaus of traditional characters dressed as Zaw Gyi, kings and royal ministers could stand for an hour, motionless, in each tent in these two quarters,” he said, “At that time, I was a child and I would tickle the performers, but they didn’t move. Nobody can do that now. Later, the festival grew bigger and bigger and more and more crowded.” International visitors also love Thadingyut. “I had to lift up my longyi to get on the Ferris wheel,” said Marc from England. “I visited the festival when I was here four years ago, and I came back because I didn’t want to miss out. It’s so high-energy, full-on mad, nuts, crazy and I love it. I’ve just been walking around, sampling food from the different stores.”
Another merrymaker, Aye Nyein Khaing, 21, said, “I come here almost every year because it’s the only place in Yangon where the tradition of Thadingyut is still observed. Elsewhere in Yangon Region, it’s disappearing. In some places, the only sign of Thadingyut is the lights people put in front of their houses. So the Yae Kyaw Thadingyut festival is very important for me.”
Organiser U Aung Naing said, “Last year, three of the township’s quarters celebrated the festival; this year it’s five in Botahtaung. The crowds are even bigger. We had to put up CCTVs for security.”
The Festival of Lights is celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month of Thadingyut. The best time to come is around 5pm as crowds generally swell from 6pm to midnight.
Thrill seekers dare to ride the swinging pendulum at Yae Kyaw’s Thadingyut Festival on October 15.
Every year Yae Kyaw’s Thadingyut festival draws thousands.
A woman pours batter into the fryer for crispy, late-night treats.
U Myint Lwin and his granddaughter from Bago city show off a Burmese python.
Young men entice festival-goers to take a ride on the man-powered Ferris wheel.
A young man aims his rubber band slingshot at his target.