Date: January 13th, 2021
Location: Kayin State, Myanmar
Over 2,700 years ago, the Kayin (also known as the Karen) migrated from Mongolia to Myanmar and nowaday, they constitute about 7 percent of the population, making them the 3rd largest of Myanmar’s ethnic groups. Through centuries, they have kept up their distinctive traditions and the Kayin New Year is one of the most important ocasions that the Kayin celebrate this unique cultural heritage and promote the preservation of their language, literature, and other traditions. This festival is observed on the first day of Pyathoe, the 10th lunar month of the Myanmar calendar. It usually falls in December or January in the Western calendar and can occur in both months in the same year in some years.
As the New Year Festival comes at the end of rice harvest time, the Kayin will consume steamed sticky rice to celebrate the new rice harvest. People will wear traditional clothing (woven tunics pulled over red longyis) and visit friends and family throughout the local area and perform Kayin songs and dances during dancing contests. Among these, the most popular dances is Kayin Don Dance that the music is played with traditional instruments and the dance participants will sing lyrics espouse Kayin values and take pride in Kayin culture, and the Kayin Bamboo Dance, which is also used at pagoda festivals, Church events and on Christmas.
Especially in Hpa An, capital of the Kayin State, there will be abundance of events like as rice eating, dancing, exhibitions of the Kayin history… and the celebrations sometimes continue for days. This festival is not also an ethnic specific holiday, but also a public holiday and is celebrated all over Myanmar and around the world by the Karen diaspora.
The Kayin New Year is celebrated throughout Myanmar, so you can join in this festival at all main tourist cities like as Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake…However, if you would like to visit the main city of the Karen, you can travel by road from Yangon (around 6-hour driving) to Hpa-An, the capital of Kayin State.
Beside the Kayin New Year Festival, you can explore the Bat Cave (a great experience and impressive nature spectacle when an endless stream of 100,000s of bats came flying out of their cave at sunset), visit the Hpa-Pu village to learn about the history and name of Hpa-An…You can combine with the Bago and Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (the Golden Rock).