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 Lahe around mid-January every year.

This special time allows visitors the chance to experience the traditions and customs of Myanmar’s Naga people. For the Naga, Lahe (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 is 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 its 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.

How Naga people celebrates their new year?

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 mesmerizing to watch – with skillful 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 celebrated in the sacred land of Myanmar. Attending the Naga new year festival is sure to become a memory for life that you will cherish for a lifetime. It is incredible to have the opportunity to experience something very heart-touching and to learn about such a rich and respected culture in the world.

Watch the below Youtube video to better understand how Naga people celebrate their new year

How can you visit the Naga New Year?

The festival is held every year and traditionally rotated between several Naga townships. In 2021, the festival will be held in Lahe township, which is located in north-west Myanmar, high in the mountains near the border with India.

Lahe 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 an organized tour group. Sonasia Holiday and our partner has arranged this kind of amazing trip since 2014.

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.

Itinerary

Feeling excited? Here is the itinerary to join the festival for your reference

Day 1 (11 January 2021): Yangon/ Mandalay to Khamti by flight, Lahae by car (4×4) Hkamti

Arrive in Khamti airport by morning flight. Welcome to Operator and transferred to cross the Chinwin River, one of the major tributaries of the mighty Ayewarwaddy, to go Sinthe village. Continue drive by 4×4 Off-road vehicles (5 hours), to Lahae ,while on the way falling into a Rrance Charmed by Panorama of Naga Mountain range Pass through Nantheegyi, Nantzalane, Launggauk, Htainnyo, Htwehtaik, and Sanpya villages to reach to Lahe town. On the way, you can take the picture on the view of Tain Nyoung Peak (Ft 4,997). In the evening, you will reach to Lahe town and check in your accommodation place (LD).

Day 2 (12 January 2021): Lahe Town

This Morning, we drive from Lahe to Makyan (45mins), we have the opportunity to visit local homes. Visit to the Naga headman house and witness the different lifestyle of different minorities of Naga hill tribes. And continue to Santon, we have the opportunity to visit local homes. Santon villages where the Ponnyo, Lai Naung and Makyan Naga visit to the Naga headman house and witness the different lifestyle of different minorities of Naga hill tribes. In the evening, drive back to Lahe and overnight at Lahe guest house. (BLD)

Day 3 (13 January 2021): Lahe Town

Soon after breakfast, the traditional Naga Ceremonial Pole will be erected at the festival ground and various Naga clans in their traditional costumes will be there to participate the festival. After lunch break, you explore the surrounding villages and we take a sightseeing to Gahone village meeting with old Naga leaders. See the face and body tattoos of Naga people. We can see authentic cultural of Naga people in these villages. Stay living on their traditional way, it will be highlight of the day. In the evening, walk to Hwehtike and Lonkhin Naga villages for our evening sightseeing. Return back to Lahe town. (BLD)

Day 4 (14 January 2021): Lahe Town – The Day of Main Events

Attend the ceremony of Naga Traditional New Year Festival in the morning and the Bonfire festival at night.

The Official Opening Ceremony of Naga New Year begins on the festival grounds early morning. Enjoy the traditional New Year Food and rice wine with the Naga community elders. At the end of the ceremony, dance competitions by the troupes from various Naga villages and sport events will start. Finally, in the evening, by a large bonfire, everyone can participate and enjoy in welcoming the Naga New Year by dancing around the bonfire. (BLD)

Day 5 (15 January 2021): Lahe – Hkamti – Mandalay – Yangon

After early breakfast, leaves the Naga Festival grounds, at 5:300AM and begin your journey back to Khamti. Lunch at Khamti local restaurant and transfer departure flight to go back home, either Mandalay or Yangon. We hope you had an enjoyable adventure trip with us and looking forward to being with us at next Naga New Year Festival. (BLD)

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.

FAQs about Naga New Year

Q. Where is it?

The Naga self-administered zone is located in the Naga Hills of Sagaing Region. The region is composed of three townships: Lahe, the administrative seat, Leshi and Nanyun. The New Year celebrations will happen in Lahe, located northwest Myanmar, in the mountains near the border with India.

Q. How to get there?

You can fly from Yangon to Mandalay and from there to Hkamti Airport. The flight between Mandalay and Hkamti takes around an hour. You get to Lahe after a 6-hour drive from Hkamti. The buses between Mandalay and Sagaing are also available and the distance between the two is not more than 20 kilometres.

Q. Where to stay and eat?

Lahe has only one guesthouse and it is just a small space at the village chief’s house with a shared bathroom. Homestay options are available during the festive season but the prices can be as high as Ks 900,000. The eateries offer tea, coffee and simple Chinese food.

Q. What to expect?

The opening day begins at 8 am on 14 January. The Naga people from different villages will gather at the festival ground and erect the totem pole. Men don warrior costumes complete with weapons as if they are marching into a battle. Women wear colourful dresses and ornaments. Then, they chant and beat drums to drive away evil spirits.

After the opening ceremony, Nwar Naut, a kind of cattle usually kept in the mountainous regions, are killed and shared among the villagers. Each village contributes the cows for meat in advance of the festival. The second day is all about dancing and being merry. There are 10 Naga tribes and each has its own distinct dance patterns.

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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