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Myanmar Culture

Mandalay

Myanmar culture

Wedding ceremony

Myanmar culture

Wedding ceremony

Myanmar culture

Myanmar culture has been strongly influenced by Buddhism and the Mon people. Its neighbours, particularly India, China, and Thailand, have made major contributions to Burmese culture. In more recent times, British colonial rule and westernisation have influenced aspects of Burmese culture.

 

Myanmar Wedding

 

Myanmar Traditional Wedding Ceremony

When a boy and a girl come of age and, love one another and will want to marry and live happy ever after, a wedding ceremony will be performed for them where their parents, relatives, honourable guests and friends are invited, so that they will be recognized as a newly married couple. This wedding ceremony we present, celebrated according to Myanmar Traditions and computable to the modern age.

As marrying is a once in a life time occasion, Myanmar women regard the wedding ceremony very seriously, and you can be sure the bride will be having cold feet, butterflies in her stomach and perspiration on her forehead as she faces this very special day of her entire life. On this day of matrimony, it’s a custom for the bride’s family: parents, brothers and sisters, to dress her up in the finest of attire and bedeck her with the best jewelleries they can afford.

With her hip-length jacket….long-length silk or satin “ htain-me-thein”, the bride looks somewhat like a princess of the Royal Court in the olden days of the Myanmar kings. And the bridegroom surely looks elegant an handsome in this traditional Myanmar men’s attire which consists of a head-dress called “ gaung baung”, a long sleeve stiff collared shirt, a double length men’s silk longyi called a “ taung shay longyi”, a traditional men’s jacket and a velvet slipper.

It’s a very encouraging and practical custom for the friends and relatives who attend the nuptial ceremony to shower the couple with gifts such as household items and personal affects that will help the marrying couple get on their feet with their life-long journey. To watch parents of the bride and bridegroom heartily welcoming their guests with smiles and handshakes, and observe the wedlock couple give away thank-you card will you warm-up to these delightful traditional customs. The wedding hall is filling up with the invited guests….and as it was the custom in the days of our king to entertain guests with the traditional glass mosaic embedded gold-gilded Myanmar Orchestra. Nowadays, due to time changes, guests are entertained with modern musical instruments. Guests are arriving in full swing; time for the wedding couple to appear is drawing near. You can be sure the bride and groom hearts are beating much faster.

The Master of Ceremony, the person who will consecrate the marriage is now announcing the beginning of the ceremony. Then later, after having recited a special written stanza on the bridal families and shower poetic praises on the bride and groom and then end-up with blessings for the couple to have life-long union and prosperity…at that time the most experienced singer from the band will begin to sing the classical auspicious song, praising the occasion and the participants, a song that befits the occasion.

The flower-girl dips her hand into the silver bowl she’s holding and gently scatter the flowers with the nuptial couple following behind, thread on these flowers, which are meant as good omen, for their life-long union as husband and wife. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for. Now everyone’s attention is drawn towards the couple who are walking down the carpeted lane of the hall this is the auspicious moment! The bride and groom has entered the ceremonial hall, attended by their best men and bridesmaids followed by their parents. Upon reaching the stage and before seating themselves, they turn towards the guests and with hands clasped together; pay their respects with their heads bowed. The garlanding of the auspicious couple is one of the auspicious customs in Myanmar weddings. In ancient days, it was the custom for the bride and groom to garland each other, but nowadays a couple with a long martial standing and of only one marriage, bestows the garlands on the couple, including the wedding rings!

After the wedding rituals are completed…. the guests are treated to refreshments offered by the couple. The married couple warmly greets and thanks the guests who have attended their wedding. The guests in return, bestow on the couple their best wishes, for prosperity and a long and happy married life! After the wedding ceremony, when the married couple arrives home, they pay their respects to parents of both side, according to traditional Buddhists customs, and in turn are blessed by their parents. The “ gei-bo” negotiating begins once the couple tries to enter their bride chamber which by then is blocked by rows of friends and relatives, holding gold chains asking for “ gei-bo” which is pocket-money. A lot of boisterous bargaining and negotiating follows until both sides agree to a negotiated amount. After passing through this last obstacle, the married couple will carry on with their life in building a long lasting and happy marriage for themselves.

Nowadays, the Traditional Weddings usually take place at the Hotels in big cities like Yangon and Mandalay. The hotels have wedding packages for the brides and the grooms. All the family members, friends, associates, colleagues and neighbours are invited to the wedding.

 

Wedding Ceremony by Offering Food & Alms to The Sangha

On auspicious occasions, offertory is dedicated to Lord Buddha and the assemblage of celestials. The offertory usually contains three or five hands of bananas, one coconut and Eugenia sprigs. The auspicious wedding ceremony by offering food and alms to the Sanghas is also no exemption.

In fact, the bride and groom work hand in hand untiringly to prepare food and other alms for the Sanghas, setting adorable tradition in itself.

Elders from both sides offer sumptuous food and snacks to the Sanghas.

The bride and groom offer food, robe and other alms with the firm belief that it is the harbinger of auspicious and happy life for the future.

It is also unforgettable for the couple to prepare and stuff a silver bowl with cash and confetti for the ceremony.

The Sanghas grace the new home by reciting Parittas to ensure good luck and happiness.

The Sanghas deliver sermons to the gathering, blessing the newly-weds and sharing their meritorious deeds.

To commemorate the successful wedding ceremony, cash and confetti are strewed among the attendees. The guests happily pick up the cash to keep as amulet, which will ward-off the bad and bring in good fortune.

It is a joyous and auspicious occasion for the newly-weds to begin their family life eternally in accord with Myanmar tradition. And it has become the solemn duty of the newly-weds to enrich human society as a wedded couple. They surely will enrich Myanmar way of life and we do hope so.

 

Court Marriage Ceremony

There are also court marriages usually performed by judges ranging from township to Supreme
Court Justices, depending on the wish and accessibility the partners. Wherever the wedding is performed, the couple wants to show and receive acceptance from society that they are eligible and duly married before respectable personages. Here we are presenting the court marriage of a youthful, vibrant and beauteous couple. Not so large a number of guests have already gathered, as the ceremony is to commence soon.

Court marriage requires judge as well as witnesses. The wedding ceremony we are presenting now has the good fortune of having the presiding judge and the witnessing law officer, both of whom are accompanied by their wives. Firstly the bride signed her signature to two copies of the marriage documents and the groom-followed suit. After the witnesses signed, the judge gave his blessing and best wishes and signed in the document and the court register. Thus, the couple became husband and wife legally. With the successful conclusion of the ceremony, the invited guests are having refreshments offered by the newly wed couple. Henceforth, the new couple is going to raise a happy family.

 

Dinner Receptions

Some Myanmar have adapted the western ideas of the Dinner Receptions too. The couple
usually get married at the court and in the evening, they throw a dinner party at the pool side of the hotels in big cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

This way of the wedding includes the parents of both the party and some wear traditional dresses but some with gowns. It is a more lightly way to have fun together with the couple.

Invited guests come to the dinner to wish the bride and the groom to have a happy long life.

 

Myanmar Family

 

A Happy Myanmar Family

Much has been said about the institution of family in Myanmar, that it is essentially a relationship based on specific duties and responsibilities on the part of husband, wife, parents and offspring. These rights and duties are taken
seriously and adhered to closely (although being human there may be lapses). Love and respect, rights and responsibilities are the foundations of a Myanmar family irrespective of religious creed. This holds true today as it did in ancient times and is a tradition that we hold dear. But there is another basic element that knits a family together although it has not been given much prominence. And that is the love and humour that is very much a part of Myanmar family life. Not much has been said about the fun and laughter that a Myanmar family enjoys, but it is there. The ability of the Myanmar people to look on the lighter, if not funny side of life is carried over into family relationship.

 

Myanmar people as parents are usually indulgent with children. No self-respecting mother will let her infant child cry but pick it up at the first whimper. But by school going age they have been taught the basics of discipline and morality. Mother sees to that. But, there is a lot of fun and laughter that help to strengthen the bonds of love. Father on return from work is greeted joyfully by the children. They run to him, clamber over him and ask for goodies. A small daughter is quite capable of running into the bedroom and come out trailing a “pasoe” (men’s nether garment) for father to change into. Another older child might run to fetch a glass of cool drinking water or a fruit juice. All this goes on till mother shoos them away for father to have a bath and relax a bit.

 

Then there is the evening meal with the family around the table. The first choice morsel goes to father, but it somehow gets back to the tiniest tot or others in turn. The parents eat sparingly if they are not affluent and see that the children get the lion’s share. But you should listen to the chatter and banter at the dinner table. Father teases one or the other of the children. Myanmar children can be mischievous and deliberately let cats out of the bag. – about mother scrimping on meat and groceries to buy the latest ‘batik’. Or someone or other will say artlessly that father’s breath smells tangy or sour- if he has had a secret nip or two on the way home much to mother’s annoyance.

 

There may be some form of corporeal punishment in poorer homes where the parents are ignor
ant and under some financial stress, but downright physical or mental abuse of children is rare. And if there is, the neighbors will see to it that it doesn’t happen too often. There may be tears but there is also humour and affection.

 

A pre-teen son will try to support a staggering drunken father and put him to bed and an elder daughter baby sits younger brothers and sister for mother who is out trying to supplement the family’s income. When such a family comes into a windfall, they will all get dressed in their best and get on a crowded bus or mini-bus to go the pagoda or, to the zoo if they should happen to live in Yangon. In smaller towns and villages they will go to a video hall (for want of a better word) or go see an all-night drama (zat pwe) at some pagoda festival. The children will gorge themselves on ice-lollipops and all kinds of roasted things – corn, peanuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds or a wide variety of Myanmar snacks. Each of them, if lucky, may have a helium balloon or at the very least a Myanmar papiere mache doll to play with.

If a foreign visitor is observant enough, he will probably see on weekends or on holidays, a family dressed in their best, the youngest child in the mother’s arms, the second youngest astride the father’s shoulders and the rest tugging at mother’s skirt or father’s pasoe straggling along the sidewalk on their way to catch a bus home. The parents look hot and exhausted and the children are tired too. But for them all, it has been a day of fun and excitement, a day they will talk about for a long time afterwards, till the next holiday comes around.

Myanmar children are taught to love and respect their parents. But they may like all children, sometimes “talk back” to parents and be cheeky. When the parents are in a good mood they get away with a mild rebuke, if not they’re in for a spanking. But the children do not fear their parents. They are wily enough to know how far they can go.

The close bonds of Myanmar family life become clear when a daughter or son enters the teens and start to show an interest in the opposite sex. A growing daughter makes the father fidgety and he looks on all boys as: “swine among the pearls, they marry little girls”. But when the son shows an interest in girls, the Myanmar father, like all fathers, preen
s himself and thinks “Oh! chip off the old block.” On the whole, especially in middle class educated families, an offspring is free to choose his or her mate, within reason.

Sometimes, of course, there is a runaway marriage. If it is a daughter, a mother will beat her breast and shed oceans of tears. But then the boy’s parents come along with downcast eyes and apologies and assurances that they will put things right, that is, hold a wedding feast to declare to all and sundry that their son has chosen his bride. If however the son of the house has brought home a wife, then the boot is on the other foot. The boy’s parents have to take the girl back to her parents and give assurances of their good will. Sometimes of course things go sour, but it’s rare. And when a grandchild comes along all is forgiven. All focus is now on the newcomer who will be showered with love from grandparents, parents and uncles and aunts plus a horde of relatives.

To Myanmar people, all children are “Yadana” that is treasure, but there is play on the syllables that admonishes them not to be “Ya – dar – nar” that means “unfortunate to have had you”.

 

Myanmar Perception

People with a basic knowledge of the culture and custom of Myanmar will find it easy to live with its citizens without friction or discord, and leave in the same fashion. Though Myanmar social customs are quite flexible, the ground rules are important for convivial inter change.

 

Naming system

A Myanmar has no family name. A woman has her own name and retains it even after marriage. A child is normally named according to the day of the week he(or she) was born, whereby each day of the week is denoted by certain letters of the Myanmar alphabet. For example, Monday is denoted by the names Kyaw,Khin, Kyin, etc; Thuesday by San, Su, Nyi, etc, Another way to name a child is based on his (or her) date of birth.

A person is usually addressed according to his age. For older people, their names are pre-fixed with U(pronouced Oo) and Daw and are the equivalents of Mr and Ms respectively. A young adult is addressed by the Honorifics Ko (for males) and Ma (for females). A child is referred to as Maung and Ma for males and females respectively. Example: Khin Myat, a departmental manager, could be addressed as U Khin Myat by his colleagues but as Ko Khin Myat or Maung Khin Myat by monks and elders.Maha Thray Sithu, Sithu, Thiri Pyan Chi, Wunna Kyaw Htin, and Naing-ngat Gon-yi titles are civil awards conferred on individuals normally government servants for distinguished service.

 

Ceremonies

Births, engagements, and marriages are considered to be auspicious occasions or tha ye while sick
ness and death fall into nga ye or sad occasions. When a woman has given birth, it is usual for her friends and colleagues to give gifts such as feeding bottles and clothes. Gifts should never be given before the baby’s birth as some women are superstitious that this will bring misfortune to the baby. When the baby is 100 days old, a name-giving ceremony is usually held. Monks will be invited to chant prayers and bless the baby and in turn meals will be offered to all participants.

Some couples who are getting engaged may throw a party for their families and friends.Guests of honour at such parties are couples who have long and happy marriages. On such an occasion, the male guest of honour will give a speech to extol the virtues of the bride-to-be on behalf of the bridegroom’s parents. If you are invited to an engagement party, you may or may not bring any gift.

Couples in Myanmar are married by registering at the registrar of marriages or by going through a ceremony conducted by a respectable couple at a grand hotel or by sheer mutual consent with no ceremony at all.

Suitable wedding gifts depend on the couple’s station n life. If they are young and are not financially stable, a cash gift in multiple of hundred (to symbolise a long life) is suitable. Otherwise, functional items such as crockery, electrical appliances, and pieces of cloth make excellent gifts, Gifts that are taboo include scissors, knives and anything black in color. Among office colleagues, a collection will normally be made to buy a gift for the couple or give the cash collection outright.

When a person is seriously ill, his or her relatives and friends are normally informed. Once informed, the friend or relative has an obligation to visit the sick person. Normally, gifts on such occasions would be fresh fruits or canned cereals. Many old traditional Myanmar are reluctant to be admitted into hospitals. However, with improvements in medical science, this attitude is changing. When a person dies at home, the body is bathed and dressed in the person’s best clothes. A monk will be invited to chant prayers. The funeral will usually take place three or five days after the day of death.

During the interim period, a wake will be held. During the wake, members of t
he deceased’s family keep vigil during the nights. Visitors who come to pay their last respects to the deceased are often served tea and black melon seeds. If a person dies in a hospital or elsewhere, the corpse id usually placed in a morgue. However, the wake will still be held at the home of the deceased.

Burial is still common in Myanmar but cremation is also performed. The recitation is also performed. The recitation of prayers by monks is part and parcel of a funeral. If one is informed of the death of the death of a friend, it is necessary to send a letter, or telegram if one is unable to visit the deceased’s family or attend the funeral. Failure to do this is insulting to the deceased’s family. Donations are usually given if the deceased ‘s family is financially backward. When you are attending a funeral, do not wear bright e celebrate this festival to rejoice in a good harvest. Also celebrate in January is the Equestrian Festival which dates back to ancient times.

Falling in April, the Water Festival (or Thingyan) is celebrated for three days to usher in the Myanmar New Year. In the cities and towns, makeshift pavilions with stages for singing and dancing are erected, and barrels are filled with water. Young people dance and sing on the stages and throw water on all and sundry. It is believed that being drenched with Thingyan water washes away one’s sin and bad luck. Decorative floats may also take part in processions.

The Kasone Festival usually falls in May. It was on the full-moon day of the Myanmar month of Kasone that Buddha was born, attained Enlightenment and passed away . As Buddha had attained Enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree, the grounds of pagodas and monasteries are planted with many of such trees. On this day, people carry earthenware pots filled with water and water the Bodhi trees. Processions are also held in temple grounds.

The Waso Robe-Offering is performed to commemorate Buddha’s first sermon, and falls on the full moon day in June or July. The day also marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. At pagodas, monks are offered free meals and a robe-giving ceremony is performed with pomp and pageantry by disciples.

On the full-moon day of Thadingyut (usually in October), the Festival of Lights is celebrated to mark the descent of Buddha from Tavadinsa or the abode of devas. Arounf this day, pagodas, buildings, public parks and houses are decorated with strings of electric bulns, oil lanterns, or candles, and young people pay respect to their elders by offering them gifts of fruits, cakes or pieces of textiles.

In the Myanmar month of Tazaungmone which corresponds to either October or November, the Kahtein Robe-Offering is performed. This occasion is similar to the Waso Robe-Offering, Also celebrated in Tazaungmone is Tazaungdaing, a second Festival of Lights. At many pagodas through the country, all- night robe-weaving contests are held. The finished robes , which must be completed before daylight, are offered to Buddha images in the pagodas.Christmas is celebrated by those who have accepted the Christian creed with carol singing, parties, and midnight masses, just like in other parts of the world.

 

Superstitions

Some Myanmar people, especially those from the rural areas, have many superstitions. Astrology, palmistry and clairvoyance are sometimes relied upon to make important decisions. These may include marriage, going into a business partnership, naming a baby, and others. To offset bad luck, certain meritorious deeds or yadaya may be performed such as setting free some live birds or animals, building a footbridge, or mending a road.

Superstition of different cultures are interesting in some ways. Here are some of the Myanmars:

§    Don’t go underneath a staircase. You will loose your will power.

§    Don’t go under a pole or rope, where women used to hang-dry their longyis. You will loose your will power.

§    Don’t leave a shoe or a slipper up-side-down. It’ll cause bad luck.

§    Don’t keep a broken glass or a mirror in homes. Replace the window panes asap if broken.

§    Don’t wash your hair within a week after a funeral in the neighborhood.

§    Don’t hit the pot with a ladle after you stir the curry. It’s like hitting your parents’ head.

§    Don’t hit 2 lids of pots and pans against each other. A tiger may bite you.

§    Don’t feed someone with the palm upward. The food might cause you disorder.

§    Don’t clip your nails at night. Ghosts don’t like that.

§    Don’t take kids to dark places. Ghosts may posses them.

§    Carrying some hairs of an elephant tail will avoid evil.

 

Male/Female Roles

Myanmar parents favour their sons over their daughters but the latter are treasured as well. Daughters are not considered a burden as no dowry is paid to the bridegroom when they marry. Traditional Myanmar women are not aggressive and usually play second fiddle to their husbands. Women are expected to help with the household chores and take care of their aged parents more than men. Where social life is concerned, unmarried women and bachelors tend to mix with members of the same sex. Between married couples, public displays of affection are rarely seen.

 

Boss/Employee Relationship

Myanmar employees are hardworking and loyal to their bosses. In return, a boss is expected to be a father figure and give help in times of need. Such help may be the giving advice to sort out personal problems or the granting of a loan in a financial crisis. As in all Asian cultures, Myanmar respect people who are older than them. To avoid friction in the workspace, make sure that a subordinate is not resentful of working under a younger supervisor. Negative communication is usually indirect. If it is necessary to discipline an employee, it is best to do it in private and with tact. Loss of “face” is a serious matter among Myanmar people.

 

Business Relationship

Friendship, trust, and honesty are important in a business relationship. Favours received, such as introducing a potential client or supplying a reference, must be repaid at a future time. When two Myanmar businessmen meet for the first time, chances are that business may not be discussed in depth. Rather, the meeting may be spent evaluating each other’s personality and business strengths and weaknesses. In general, it is easier for Asians to deal with Myanmar businesspeople than Westerners.

 

Table Manners and Settings

 

Food and settings – The Myanmar Way

This is about the Myanmar way of how to serve food, how to eat it, and what the backgrounds is when the Myanmar themselves meet to eat. Although it is not suggested for all foreign visitors to encounter these features, still a few suggestions might fins a favorable response and an understanding will be gained of the nature of it.

 

The Table’s Atmosphere

Myanmar food table are usually small and rounded. The atmosphere desired is not one of elegance, polish or aesthetic success. What is desired is convivial closeness of those who gather to eat over a meeting of hands.

 

Crockery and Setting

Dishes should be small, unlike the large serving dishes of the West. They should be small but with depth. For relishes, pickles, dips, we can use a 3-4 inch diameter bowls, for normal curries, fried vegetables and salad, 5-7 inch diameter bowls. Suitable serving spoons of silver, other metal or even Chinaware are put into each curries and bowls.

 

Serving the Meal

Servers may hover about but only the big rice bowl is taken around by them. There are too many dishes to serve quickly enough from the side. Each person needs to help himself to get the dish he wants.

 

Eating

People must concentrate on eating instead of chatting. The hostess constantly dishes rice for guests who insist they have had plenty. Eating with fingers must not look messy. Myanmar use all the five fingers to eat. When finished, each guest may rise and go to the basin and wash with soap.

 

Invitation and Parties

There is a hospitality based on the food carrier. Perhaps only a few guests can be invited but you want to feast more than that number. There is not much of a printed invitation, except for ceremonies at Monastery and for weddings. The locals usually go around and invite the close friends, relatives and who-ever-so they want to invite. Since most of the Myanmar are Buddhist, many ceremonies are held at Monasteries called Ahlu. It is a joy and peaceful type of donation. Many curries and rice and served at the Monasteries. But nowadays, there are western style parties held at hotels.

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