Customs and traditions
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country,
and the everyday life of the majority is characterized
by Buddhist traditions. The importance of the seasons in
the peasant community also sets its mark on many
holidays. Often the peasant culture and religion blend
together. The prohibitionist belief in nature, filled
with spirits, lives and intertwines with the Buddhist
world of thought.
Most traditional holidays are celebrated at the full
moon, and the days around it. The lunar calendar that is
applied allows the holidays to be different from year to
year according to our calendar.
Overview of the capital city of Burma, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
In January or February, the full moon celebration is
devoted to a rice harvest festival, when eating rice
cooked with sesame seeds, peanuts, ginger and coconut, a
dish called htamane. At the
full moon celebration in February / March, everyone
gathered at the pagodas. If a village has decided to
erect a new pagoda, it is this weekend that construction
will begin. In April / May one celebrates Buddha's
birthday, the day Buddha reached the full enlightenment
and entered the nirvana
(Burmese nibbana). This
weekend is called "the three-fold blessed day" and is
devoted, among other things, to watering banyan trees,
the tree Buddha sat under when he reached the
In April, the Myanmar New Year is also celebrated. It
occurs when the hot dry season culminates and is
celebrated by pouring water on each other. All
pedestrians run the risk of having a bucket of cold
water emptied over them outside each dwelling.
Traditionally, the King of the Spirit of the Thagyamin
is considered to visit the world of men these days to
sum up the good and evil deeds that have been committed
during the year. He is received with flower gifts and
the Buddha statues of the home are thoroughly cleaned.
But above all, the New Year celebration is an
opportunity to have fun. In addition to the water rush,
the Myanmares are devoted to music and song these days,
and to laughing at satirical New Year's revelations.
The full moon in June / July begins a three-month
fixed period. People go to the monasteries and hand over
new clothes to the monks, who then retire to spend the
near time for in-depth meditation. Marriages rarely
occur during this period, nor do people usually change
homes at that time. Young people who intend to spend
some time in a monastery, which is very common, often
initiate their abode during this time.
In September / October, the rainiest time of the
year, the fast ends with great festivities. Now lots of
weddings are arranged and the monks are allowed to go on
trips to other monasteries or on pilgrimage to holy
places. Now, Buddha's return to mortality is also
celebrated after a stay in the heavenly kingdom of
Tavatimsa. Lamps, lanterns,
candles and colored light bulbs are exhibited on the
streets and at the entrance doors of the houses to lead
the way for the Buddha.
There are also a number of national, non-religious
holidays. Independence Day on January 4 is usually
celebrated with large markets, while Union Day on
February 12 is dedicated to the national unity of all
the ethnic groups formed by Aung San but which collapsed
during the following regimes. On March 2, the farmers'
day is celebrated, followed by the day of the armed
forces on March 27. Then military parades are carried
out and then it is usually announced that a number of
prisoners have been pardoned. The Martyrs' Day, July 19,
is a day of mourning for the murders of Aung San and the
other leaders of independence in 1947. And although so
few Burmese are Christians, Christmas Day is a public
holiday as a gesture to the predominantly Christian Kars.
Given the brutal and systematic human rights
violations that the Burmese were forced to live under
military rule, the politeness and soft manners of
ordinary people may seem surprising. Politeness is
deeply rooted already in the Burmese language, which
contains a large selection of respectful speech words.
The most common is to appeal to or mention a respected
man U. It is not a first name
but means "sir", or really "uncle". A respected "aunt"
is addressed to Daw. Thus, the
first prime minister was really only called Nu, and the
UN Secretary-General Thant.
The Burmese namesake is complicated and not at all
similar to the Western one. There are no first names or
surnames. A child can be given a part of either parent's
name, but can also have his or her own. A person can
change his or her name several times during his or her
life, for example to celebrate important events such as
a degree, marriage or a new job. Traditionally, a name
consisted of only one syllable (Nu, Thant), but in the
last century the names have increasingly been extended
to two, three and four syllables. Aung San Suu Kyi is
called Aung San Suu Kyi, neither more nor less. Not only
is it wrong to shorten it (though it is often done for
practical reasons and even Myanmarians sometimes call it
"Daw Suu"), it is also considered disrespectful to
shorten someone's name.
How to greet
It is not considered necessary to bring a gift if one
is invited home to a Myanmar family. However, you are
ashamed if you walk into the house with your shoes on.
When greeting it is enough with a slight bow, preferably
with the hands against the chest with palms pressed
against each other. Shaking hands in a western way is
becoming more common, especially in business, but a man
should not extend his hand to a Myanmarian woman, it can
be perceived as embarrassing. Exchanging business cards
is one of the routines in a business context. You should
hand in and receive cards with both hands, as it is a
gesture that expresses respect.
Since Buddhism regards a human's head as the noblest
part of the body, it is insulting to touch someone's
hair or head. This applies not least to children. Kindly
patting a child on the head or tugging at the hair is
considered deeply disrespectful and even detrimental to
the child's well-being. Conversely, feet are considered
the simplest and dirtiest part of the body. Never turn
the sole of your foot against a Myanmar, never point
your foot at a person - let alone the Buddha image that
may be in the home. Don't even point your finger at a
Buddha image, it's just as disrespectful.
To start talking politics during the dinner
conversation is not recommended. There is a risk of
putting myanmaries in the company in embarrassing
The dinner is likely to consist of several meat, fish
and vegetable dishes, but good tableware dictates that
you settle for one dish, with rice, at a time, at least
until you have tried everything. Then you can fill with
a couple of dishes at the same time, but never spoon the
plate full. Eating with right-hand fingers is a common
When visiting a pagoda, one must take off shoes, and
any stockings, remember not to point to Buddha images,
and walk around statues and stupas clockwise
(clockwise). A woman should never touch a monk or even a
tab of his cap.
Long prison sentences for regime-critical protests
Dozens of people are sentenced to up to 65 years in prison for participating
in regime-critical demonstrations or other forms of protests in the fall of
The house arrest is extended for the NLD leader
Aung San Suu Kyi gets his house extension extended for another year.
Yes to a new contentious constitution
The regime announces that 92 percent of voters in a referendum vote for a new
constitution, which gives the military great powers even after a formal
transition to civilian rule in Myanmar. Among other things, every fourth place
is reserved for parliament in the military, and the armed forces have the right
to appoint heavy ministerial posts responsible for defense, police and border
Juntan is criticized for slow response to natural disaster
Cyclone Nargis wreak havoc in the delta of the Irrawaddy River south of
Rangoon. Over 130,000 people are feared to have died. Juntan receives stinging
criticism internationally for his unwillingness to quickly hire foreign rescue
personnel. Junta leader Than Shwe waits two weeks to visit the disaster area.