TOPSHOTS This picture taken on November 18, 2013 in Taunggyi in Myanmar's northeastern Shan State shows participants celebrating after releasing a hot-air balloon during the Tazaungdaing Lighting Festival. Every year in November as the full moon approaches, tens of thousands of people from all over the country gather in Taunggyi for the colourful hot-air balloons festival during which balloons lift fireworks or lanterns which illuminate the sky at night while balloons of all shapes are flown during the day. AFP PHOTO/Ye Aung THUYe Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT:

The Thadingyut Festival is the Lighting Festival of Myanmar, is held on the full moon day of the Burmese Lunar month of Thadingyut. As a custom, it is held at the end of the Buddhist lent (Vassa) and is the second most popular festival in Myanmar after Thingyan Festival (New Year Water Festival). Thadingyut festival is the celebration to welcome the Buddha’s descent from the heaven after he preached the Abhidhamma to his mother, Maya, who was reborn in the heaven.

Background & History

Thadingyut, the seventh month of the Myanmar calendar, is the end of the Buddhist lent or Vassa. Thadingyut festival last for three days: the day before the full moon day, the full moon day and the day after the full moon day. Buddha descends from heaven on the full moon day itself. Buddha’s mother, Maya, died seven days after the Buddha was born and then she was reborn in the Trayastrimsa Heaven.[2] In order to pay back the gratitude to his mother, Buddha preached Abhidhamma to his mother for three Lenten months.

When he was descending back to the mortal world, Sakra-devanam-indra, the ruler of the Trayastrimsa Heaven, ordered all the saints and evils to make three precious stairways.  Those stairways were made of gold, silver and ruby. The Buddha took the middle one with the ruby. The Nats (Deva) came along by the right golden stairways and the Brahmas from the left silver stairways. Buddhists celebrate Thadingyut to welcome the Buddha and his disciples by enlightening and festooning the streets, houses and public buildings with colored electric bulbs or candles, which represent those three stairways

During Thadingyut Festival, there are Zat Pwes (Myanmar musical plays), free movie shows and stage shows on most of the streets around the country. There are also a lot of food-stalls, which sell a variety of Myanmar traditional foods and shops, which sell toys, kitchen utensils and other useful stuffs on most of the streets. Sometime people just walk around in those streets just for sightseeing and have fun. Some people like to play with fire crackers and fire balloons. During the festival days, Buddhists usually go to pagodas and monasteries to pay respect to the monks and offer foods.

And some Buddhists usually fast on the full moon day. Young people usually pay respect to their parents, teachers and elderly relative and offer them some fruits and other gifts. In return, the elder ones wish good luck for them and give them some pocket money.