By word of a friend, I was put in touch with Aung Htin Kyaw, a talented and enthusiastic community organizer in Southern California. I interviewed Aung Kyaw to learn his thoughts on Thingyan, the Burmese New Year, which begins today.
Who are you?
I am a 2nd generation Burmese American of Chinese heritage. I am currently a college student studying in Los Angeles.
What is the Buddhist significance of this holiday?
While there is no overt Buddhist meaning to this holiday (unlike Thadingyut, for example, which marks the end of the Buddhist lent), Thingyan is considered a very good time to practice the Buddhist precepts, perform merit acts and show respect for one’s elders (by practicing gadaw, the custom of kneeling, prostrating to show veneration to parents and grandparents).
What does this holiday mean to you?
To be honest, this holiday does not have much spiritual meaning for me. Considering that I also celebrate New Year and the Chinese New Year, the importance of crossing over to the Burmese New Year loses its significance for me. It’s just a nice time to celebrate my cultural heritage with friends and family.
What do you plan to do on/for Thingyan?
I’m hoping to organize a trip to South El Monte for other Burmese students to celebrate “Maha Thingyan,” an annual Thingyan festival held in the San Gabriel Valley by the Southern California Burmese Association.
Aung Kyaw’s blog Fifty Viss has kept me informed on many issues relating to Burmese Americans, be it finding Burmese food in America or the status of “Burmese” in the 2010 United States Census. Although he hasn’t continued updating the blog in recent years, you can still learn lots (not to mention look at beautiful photos) by combing through the archived posts. I’m not going to have time to attend the Southern California Thingyan festival this weekend, but if you live down here, I strongly encourage you to drop by—and afterward, drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts!
(Disclaimer—I’ve never actually heard anyone say thingyan mingalar, but it works better for the post title than hnit thit mingalar…)