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Kachin Manaw festival. Image courtesy of Myanmar Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

The Kachin peoples of Myanmar’s Kachin State celebrate their traditional new year around January, in a scenic festival called Manaw. Members of six recognized Kachin communities – Lachid, Lhaovo, Lisu, Jinghpaw, Rawang and Zaiwa – converge on Myitkyina and Putao dressed in their traditional best.

Historically, the Kachin took the opportunity to do business and to court the opposite sex during a Manaw, and the present day is no exception. Between lavish feasts accompanied by ample rice wine, young people perform a slow, languid line dance beneath the shadow of the towering Manaw poles; the poles are painted red, black and white in traditional motifs. The dance may last between four to eight days.

Pavilions around the field do brisk business in Kachin souvenirs and traditional clothing, coffee, and gemstones. Live performances of Kachin music take place in the evenings around the festival grounds.

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For other traditional New Year celebrations, visit the Naga New Year Festival, also in Myanmar; Singapore’s Deepavali festivities; the Buddhist New Year festivities in Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand; and the Chinese New Year festivities in Indonesia (Cap Go Meh) and Singapore. For other festivals in the month of January, check out Cambodia’s Paddy Art Festival and the Philippines’ Sinulog Festival.