Customs and traditions
According to Abbreviationfinder, 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.
- Countryaah: 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 Enlightenment.
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.
According to Countryaah, 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 situations.
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 practice.
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 2007.
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 issues.
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.