- U Khin Maung Phone Ko
There follow suites with the heading are other questions like where?, why?, when?, and how?
Where: Myanmar New Year celebration and its style commences in the first empire of Bagan in 11th century A.D., as well as in the South-East Asia by King Anawrahta who had exported Theravada Buddhism, after the conquest of Thaton, to the region in the South-East Asia Peninsula, except Viet Nam, attempted even to the Yunnan, the south west of China. The cultural aspects of the basic celebration are still being practised in Myanmar as well as in that region. The spectre of British colonial wedge put in some tribes of Myanmar was obviously found in the past. The colonial rulers encouraged some tribes to celebrate a new year of their own date, avoiding the one by Bamar (means one ethnic race) not Myanmar (all races) and Buddhist way. Some races were encouraged to celebrate a new year in December as majority of them are Christians. But in facts Jesus was not born in December nor on the 25th day of the month. In the Holy Bible, one can find the exact month (September), when Jesus was born by a study in the Old and New testaments scriptures of the Holy Bible.
Why: To make aware the wedge of the colonial ruler, we can analyse the way how Myanmar, not Bamar, it New Year is celebrated. The first month of Myanmar calendar is April, that is comparable to the Jewish first month in March-April. It is not unusual as both nations are based on a lunar calendar and both are the agricultural countries. But what is common to both culture is that the first month is the sun coming back from the southern hemisphere has crossed past the Equator or the Meridian. In ancient time in Myanmar, New Year days were moving now and then, as it is a practice for the lunar calendar (Ref 16, p348 of The Burman by Schwe Yoe). But it was fixed on the 17th of April (the first month of Myanmar calendar) as Myanmar New Year in the modern time of post British colonial era by our first democratic government for reason unknown to the author.
[Note!!! The story behind the Seventeenth day of the first month of calendar is as follows in the Holy Bible:
In previous sub-section in my book, 1.02 Post Creation of the earth by God, including the Land for Myanmar, we have read that the creator God (Yahweh) destroyed all evil living humans and animals except Noah and family of eight and some created animals that came to the Ark. The ark rested on the seventh month of Nisan (the 7th month of the old international calendar), on the seventeenth day of the 7th month upon the mountains of Ararat (now inside Turkey).]
When: God instituted a calendar, change explained in Exodus12:2 (NIV), and the seventh month Nisan became the first month for Jewish calendar (March-April of earlier existed international calendar). It turns out that the same day the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat (turkey) is the 17th day of Nisan (Genesis 8:4NIV), which just happens to be three days and three nights after the 14th of (the first month of new calendar) or old month of Nisan (Exodus 12:6NIV), (it is recorded as the date for future Passover feast or the independent day of slavery of Jewish people from the Pharos, the king of Egypt). On the Passover day of feast, about two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was crucified, died on the cross. So, that would mean that in prophetic illustration, God caused the ark to rest from the flood (atonement of His wrath on the evil world) on the same day that after three nights and three days, that Jesus would rise from the dead or grave, to save mankind from the future wrath upon a Christ–rejecting world. Coincidence? Highly unlikely.]
Let us take this view that any races can celebrate it. It is not only meant for Buddhists or Bamars, it is for all Myanmar races to celebrate new year meaningfully. However, people are free to embrace to be of benefit to their religious practices. Most of the Asian religious new years involve asking for forgiveness, paying respect to seniors and cleansing of sin by washing with (or throwing) water or it is what we called water throwing festival. Nowadays in Myanmar, about ten days are marked as New year holidays in April. There is a traditional belief in Myanmar that king of spirit from the sky came down that time with a golden record book of life to record those who do meritorious deed of now and before. For some, they take greater care not to do evil things during this time, but to do only good deeds.
How: There days of splashing water with the in the past, traditionally, make-shift bamboo-poles and coconut leaves tents build around dwelling places almost three to four days there. It is like God commanded Jews to remember how they lived as slave in Egypt in the tent. Jewish first month celebration of Passover as commanded by God to Moses in the Bible, after they were taken out from the 430 years of slavery in Egypt, some three and a half thousand years ago, The Passover is to celebrate on the fourteenth day of the first month, the day Jewish people came out of Egypt, and another seven days to eat the bread without yeast or the unleavened bread made without yeast. (Exodus 12:3; & 13:3).
The time of Myanmar New year of lunar calendar in some year falls on or a day before or after the Resurrection Sunday of Jesus Christ when He came out alive from the grave. Notably, this auspicious year 2017, our new year day is on Monday 17th day of the first month after Jesus Christ’s resurrection on Sunday 16th April. This Sunday day in the tradition of the Christianity, is recognized as the first Sunday after full moon, when the sun came back to the northern hemisphere or the March equinox. Then eventually counts backward to the Good Friday which is on 14th April. But, on 16th is the resurrection Sunday, during our celebration of our new year the festival from 12 to 16 in 2017.
Unknown to its source, there is a special rice ball eat at the time for Myanmar New Year. It is from the Chinese origin of food, that a rice paste (or Mont-hunt) rolled with black gula or toddy sweet (or black Htan-nyet from Kyauk Padaung town in Myanmar). What is more interesting is, the way it is cooked. That is interesting that a ball thus make is drop in the boiling water and it dips down below. When it is cooked, this ball will come up on the surface of hot water. – (In Chinese, this food is known as “Tang Yuen”). This food represents the first before it is cooked submerged under water, as sign of death. Then after it is cooked comes up on the hot water, as a sign of alive or depict a likeness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This food is not new to Chinese food culture, but the meaning of it and time of celebrating the Myanmar New Year is a fantastically meaningful. I have learnt that the Chinese and Japanese also eat this food around the New Year time. With this celebration, the British colonial power or its cronies or anyone wants to create the other month of celebration of New Year, for the Christian in different season such as in December, is a wedge push in the crack among Myanmar races.
Myanmar is now celebrating a blessed new year with a resurrected life as Jesus Christ, moving forward to the new dawn of the Democratic Federal Republic of 4th Great nation in the world. My sincere prayer is for all people & races of Myanmar become united Myanmar to build our great nation strong, united and prosperous similar to the first Myanmar Empire of Bagan in the region and the world.
The writer U Khin Maung Phone Ko is formerly assistant lecturer in The Rangoon Institute of Technology now Rangoon technological University, Yangon, Myanmar and lecturer in the Singapore Polytechnic and senior lecturer at the Nanyang Institute of Technology and the Nanyang Technological University.