Last month, dozens of parents, family members and friends watched elementary-and middle school-age kids dance, play instruments and sing as part of the Myanmar New Year Water Festival held at Ron Russell Middle School in the David Douglas School District. Funded through a $3,500 grant from the East Portland Neighborhood Office, organizers held the fifth Thingyan, or New Year’s celebration, in mid-April, the same time it’s held in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.
According to Wikipedia, Thingyan is a Buddhist celebration held over a four-to-five-day period culminating in the New Year, and it is part of the summer holiday at the end of the school year in Myanmar. It is held during the hottest month of the year—and that is where the water comes in. “Water-throwing or dousing one another from any shape or form of vessel or device that delivers water is the distinguishing feature of this festival and may be done on the first four days of the festival,” according to Wikipedia.
However, without the water element, a no-no inside the auditorium, this east Portland version of Thingyan felt more like an elementary school music recital. In addition to the cultural music, costumes and dance, like other festivals, Thingyan has its own unique food, which was available at last month’s event. Many other Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, also hold Lunar New Year celebrations in April.