Htamane Puay – Burmese Glutinous Rice Festival


Every year, in February, small neighborhoods will gather and participate in “Htamane Puay”, or the Glutinous Rice Festival. Traditionally, the women of the neighborhood will prepare large quantities of sticky rice ingredients (rice, nuts, coconuts, seeds, etc.) and throw them into an enormous pot. Then, it is the men of the neighborhood who must be constantly stirring the pot so that the rice doesn’t stick or burn. They use enormous paddles to do this because anything else wouldn’t be large enough. Many men gather around the same pot to continually stir at the same time. The rice is offered with prayer to Buddha at dawn and is distributed to everyone in the community throughout the day. It is all done in the spirit of prosperity to come while giving thanks to what they have.


My aunt told me about this event and participated in it when she was younger, along with the rest of my extended family. The “neighborhood” was an important unit of people to them, just one step larger than family. Much of their lives when they lived in Burma revolved around those that lived nearest to them. They took care of each other, ate together, went to school together, and played with each other in the streets. Festivals like these were moments to remind a community to appreciate each and every one of its members. Also, the pictures we googled seemed much smaller than how my aunt remembered it. She thinks the pots have grown smaller over time, possibly due to the diminishing importance of the “neighborhood”.


There’s a lot going on here for a folklorist to analyze. Most obvious is how closely knit a community can be compared to communities in other parts of the world. They rely on each other in times of hardship and celebrate together in times of prosperity – they work as a team and have responsibility towards one another. Second, it’s clear that common religion plays an important role in the daily lives and traditions of the community. They give offerings to Buddha and he gives back. Finally, there’s the assumed gender roles in the community. Men are expected to do manual labor while women are expected to do the more general parts of cooking. Both are equally important and the food would not be ready without one or the other.