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Published on November 29, 2017

Tazaungdaing peacock balloon in Taunggyi. Image courtesy of Myanmar Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

The full moon day of the eighth month of the Burmese lunar calendar is held in special esteem by the Myanma. It marks the end of the Kahtein season, the three-month rainy-season retreat of Buddhist monks, who celebrate the occasion by receiving new robes from devotees in their community. The Festival of Lights is also held at this time, where residents of Taunggyi in Shan State celebrate the event by launching great gaudily-painted balloons into the air.

The hot-air balloons are made with bamboo frames and mulberry-paper sheaths. In Taunggyi, the balloons come in the form of gigantic paper animals; flying oxen, fish, and elephants glide across both daytime and nighttime skies, the latter enlivened with festive fireworks.

The fireworks and balloons hearken back to Buddhist folklore: as Tazaungdaing is closely linked to the Buddha’s visit to his sainted mother in a higher plane, the fireworks and the balloons are intended to guide the Buddha back to Earth. On a less serious note, young Myanma traditionally wait till Tazaungdaing to play pranks on their neighbors!

As Tazaungdaing follows the traditional Myanmar lunar calendar, the holiday falls on November 3 in 2017.

Parrot-shaped balloon in Taunggyi.  Image courtesy of Myanmar Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

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For similar festivals that train a spotlight on the local culture, visit Indonesia’s Bali Art Festival; Malaysia’s Unesco World Heritage City Celebrations; the Philippines’ Bamboo Festival; Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival; and Vietnam’s Hoi An Festival.

For an alternative November festival stop, visit Thailand’s Loi Krathong Festival and Cambodia’s Water Festival.