Burmese host low-key ‘Water Fest’

Discover where, in the Centennial neighborhood, this community held their annual celebration …

This sign over the main entry welcomes all to the 2019 Burmese Water Festival, held here, in outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

While this wasn’t the large-scale festival at Ron Russell Middle School in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood of years past, a group of Burmese still did celebrate their “New Year Water Festival” on April 13.

Stymied by a lack of access to East Portland Community Office and East Portland Action Plan grant programs, the group still found a way to celebrate their most important festival of the year by hosting a more intimate event.

>> To read about and see photos of a past Water Festival, CLICK HERE.

At this year’s festival, dozens of people gathered at a Buddhist Benevolent Association monastery, set back amongst fir trees in the 15500 block of SE Powell Boulevard.

Because they couldn’t obtain grants, and could do limited fundraising, this year’s celebration is smaller, said Ko Naing, Chair for the Dhamma Vihara monastery.

“Most of today, we’re celebrating the Burmese New Year by worshipping with the monks, and also paying reverence to the older people in our community; which is traditional in Burma,” said Ko Naing, Chair for the monastery.

“Giving reverence to our elders is a way of ‘giving back’ to them, and asking for forgiveness,” Naing told East Portland News.

A monk leads the group in chants, welcoming the New Year.

Outside, enjoying the special dishes made to celebrate the New Year, celebrants stay out the rain under a canopy.

It’s called the “Water Festival” by the many ethnic group members here from Burma, which now called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

“The purpose of splashing water on one another – something we do back home, but not so much here – is to symbolically wash away wrongdoings, wrong thoughts, and unhappiness from the old year; to be able to welcome the New Year with a clean spirit and a clean body,” Naing explained.

Elders of the group talk and receive the respect of members.

“Later in the day is a time when we celebrate with dancing and singing songs welcoming our New Year,” he concluded.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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