The Tazaungdaing Festival is also known as the Festival of Lights and spelt Tazaungdine Festival), held on the full moon day of Tazaungmon, the eighth month of the Burmese calendar, is celebrated as a national holiday in Burma (Myanmar) and marks the end of the rainy season. It also marks the end of the Kathina (Kahtein in Burmese) season, during which monks are offered new robes and alms. The festival’s origins predate the introduction of Buddhism to Burma, and are believed to stem from the Kattika festival, which honors the guardian planets in Hindu astrology.
Robe-weaving competitions to weave special yellow monk robes called matho thinganare also held throughout the country, most notably in Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda. During these competitions, held for two consecutive nights (the night preceding and the night of the full moon), contestants work nonstop from night until dawn to weave these garments. The tradition commemorates a widely known story of the Buddha’s life. Seeing that the Buddha would soon renunciate, the Buddha’s mother, Maya, who had been reborn in the Tavatimsa heaven, spent the entire night weaving yellow monk robes for him. Her sister Gotami (Buddha’s aunt) continued this tradition and offered new robes annually.
In Shan State, particularly in Taunggyi, hot air balloons lit with candles, are released to celebrate the full moon day, similar to Yi Peng celebrations in Northern Thailand. The balloons are released as an offering to the Sulamani cetiya in Tavitisma, a heaven in Buddhist cosmology and home of the devas, or as a way to drive away evil spirits, although the origins of the tradition date back to 1894, when the British first held hot air balloon competitions in Taunggyi, soon after the annexation of Upper Burma. In recent years, these traditions have also been transported to other parts of the country, including Naypyidaw, which holds an annual government-sponsored celebration, and Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo).