Su Yadanar Kyaw poses for a photograph. Photo credit: Save the Children 2018.

Kayin Wrist Tying Ceremony


Written by Su Yadanar Kyaw, 

Senior Coordinator, Sponsorship Operations, Save the Children in Myanmar.

Every year in August, on a day locally called War Kaung, we celebrate the annual wrist tying ceremony in Myanmar. This is a celebration on the day of the full moon, as many of our traditional festivals are, in the fifth month of the Buddhist Burmese calendar, and meant to be a day of loving, kindness, friendship and forgiveness.

It is a very special festival for all Kayin people, an ethnic group which lives mostly in the south and southeastern part of our country, and is a celebration rooted in animistic beliefs. During this festival, young people receive white wrist ties from their elders, which is believed to drive away all obstacles and evil spirits they may face, and bring good luck, health and strength to their body and soul.

“This year, I will go to the Kyauk Ka Latt pagoda with my granddaughter Lay Pyay. She will receive blessings and get her wrist tie. It is meant to protect her from harm and bad luck and ensure to bring back all good luck.” Daw Aye One, member of the sponsorship supported Early Learners committee in her community and grandmother of 4-year-old Lay Pyay, tells us. In her role as a committee member, Daw Aye One helps raise awareness in her community about the importance of early education for children Lay Pyay’s age, encouraging them to send their own children and grandchildren to classes. She also helps oversee the classroom, assisting teachers and making sure the environment is clean and safe for the young students.

Preparing to feast at the annual wrist tying ceremony. Photo credit: Save the Children 2018.

Preparing to feast at the annual wrist tying ceremony.

On the day of the festival, everyone in the community wore their best colorful, uniquely patterned traditional costumes and woven longyi, a type of cylindrically shaped clothe worn around the waist in Myanmar. “It is the time everyone comes back home. But my daughter is not coming back from the Thailand border this year,” Daw Aye One says sadly. In Hpa An, it is very common for parents to travel to nearby Thailand in search of work, and stay for long periods of time, leaving young children and homes in the care of elderly grandparents in order to send money home from time to time. Lay Pyay’s mother has supported her family in this way by working at a factory over the Thailand border for nearly the past 10 years. Both she and her husband return to the village just once or twice a year to see their family.

“We need to put a new roof on and rebuild some parts of our house to prevent this year’s rains, so she needs to earn a lot of money. She promised that she will be back for Lay Pyay’s birthday, which is after 3 months.” she says hopefully.

The annual ceremony starts with lively local music and dance. An elderly couple leads this ceremony and starts by chanting prayers and calling upon the guardian spirits to bless the younger generation.

Seven materials – a glass of clean water, white thread, rice balls, sticky rice, bananas, paw wee flowers and sugarcane are essential for this event. Each one of these materials symbolizes a value, for instance paw wee flowers, which locally grow in any season, even in bad weather, are a symbol for the ability of the community to settle and grow in any place, and the strength and harmony of living together in a multicultural village such as this.

4-year-old Lay Pyay and her grandmother, Daw Aye One. Photo credit: Save the Children 2018.

4-year-old Lay Pyay and her grandmother, Daw Aye One.

After the prayers, elder village and family members like grandparents recite the blessings while the seven ingredients are placed on top of the participants’ hands, while tying the piece of white string around the wrist and wishing them good luck and spiritual strength.

People of other ethnic backgrounds like Pa’o, Mon and Bamar also enjoy this festival with the Kayin peoples. “I am Pa’O and I am proud to celebrate this special ceremony of Kayin people. You can see people from different ethnicities coming together and giving best wishes to each other. A beautiful tradition to be part of.” Daw Aye One says.

How do you celebrate special occasions with your family? Is it similar to the wrist tying ceremony in Myanmar in some ways? Consider sharing a family tradition with your sponsored child in your next letter!

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