All year round, visitors to Myanmar can experience the country’s warm and rich culture. However, one particularly special and unique time to visit is during the Naga New Year Festival, which will be held in Lay Shee on 15 January 2019.
This special time allows visitors the chance to experience the traditions and customs of Myanmar’s Naga people. For the Naga, Lay Shee (New Year) is a significant time when people share their wishes and hopes for the future, and families are reunited.
It is a time of great celebration; where lively dances are performed in traditional dress, to the beat and sounds of traditional instruments.
Few tourists are lucky enough to share in the joy and festivities of the Naga New Year, but those who do are richly rewarded with an incredible cultural experience.
Overall, for those who seek genuine cultural exchange and the opportunity to take some truly stunning photographs, the Naga New Year is an amazing and unique festival to attend.
What is the Naga New Year?
The Naga are a group of people who live mainly in northwestern Myanmar, as well as some parts of India. Within the Naga group, there are many different subgroups, each with their own languages, traditions and dress. Each group has their own rich traditions and customs, that have been handed down over generations.
Overall, however, all Naga people are linked by some common customs and languages, including the celebration of the Naga New Year.
Like many people around the world, the Naga have exciting and festive New Years’ celebrations. The festival is celebrated in mid-January, which would traditionally be after crops were harvested and before new ones were planted.
It was a time for families to reunite, and for people to wish for bountiful harvests, success in the new year and for any illnesses to be healed.
To this day, Naga people from far and wide make the journey to attend the festival. Some attendees hike for up to five days through the beautiful mountains of the Sagaing region, so as to be a part of the big day.
As well as spending time together and making wishes for the coming year, the Naga New Year is also celebrated with lively dances and ceremonies, in beautifully ornate traditional dress.
These dances are truly mesmerising to watch – with skilful dancers proudly showing off traditions that have lasted thousands of years. The rhythmic beating of the drums and other instruments makes this an even more amazing spectacle to behold.
Generally, dancers rehearse for an entire day before the festival in order to make sure that the performances are perfect. It is a day of great pride for the Naga people, who demonstrate dances that have been handed down for generations.
There are also traditional games and sports as part of the celebration. During Naga New Year, people from all the different Naga subgroups in Myanmar and beyond come together to share in their traditions and participate in the good-natured competition.
Undoubtedly, it is one of the most fascinating and beautiful festivals on the annual calendar in Myanmar.
How can you visit the Naga New Year?
The festival is held every year and traditionally rotated between several Naga townships. In 2019, the festival will be held in Lay Shee (Leshi) township, which is located in north-west Myanmar, high in the mountains near the border with India.
Lay Shee is part of the Naga Self-Administered Zone, as written in the Myanmar Constitution. In order to attend the festival, visitors must obtain a permit or attend with an organised tour group.
By regulating who attends the festival, the Naga ensures that the festival is not overcrowded and that their culture is protected. It is, therefore, a unique opportunity for visitors to see totally authentic Naga culture and traditions.
Those who are lucky enough to attend the festival will experience a rare, genuine opportunity to observe and photograph the Naga people of Myanmar and to learn about their rich culture. This is not an event that it is put on for tourists; it is a genuine and significant day for the Naga people.
That said, it is with joy that the Naga people share their cultural traditions with those who make the journey to attend.
As well as attending the festival, those who visit for Naga New Year may also like to take the opportunity to meet some people in the nearby village, to learn even more about the rich culture and traditions of the Naga in Myanmar.
Attending the Naga New Year Festival is sure to become a memory to treasure for life. It is incredible to have the opportunity to see something so few foreigners ever do, and to learn about such a rich and beautiful culture.
Pro Niti Travel is thrilled to offer tour packages to visit this amazing festival. View our 2019 Lay Shee Naga Festival packages now, or contact us for more information.