Hope Hpa-an Wrist Tying Ceremony Unites Karen

This year’s Karen wrist tying ceremony came with added significance. A two-year ceasefire still holding, Karen armed groups, once sworn enemies promising to be united and villagers able to travel freely in their homeland.

Saw Myint Thu, an organizing committee member for this year’s ceremony in Hpa-an told Karen News that this year’s celebration is the best yet.

Saw Myint Thu said.

“Our celebration is getting better year by year. Particularly this year, we have seen many representatives from Karen armed groups who signed the ceasefire agreement with the government, attend and representatives from all State government departments.”

This year the traditional wrist tying ceremony was held on August 18 [2752 in Karen calendar] at Zwekabin Hall, Hpa-an, Karen State.

Saw Myint Thu said that the celebration included Karen people who returned from overseas, representatives of Karen armed groups, Karen State government Ministers, department officials, and members of political parties.

The Karen State Chief Minister, U Zaw Min, was among those attending and spoke to the large crowd about the symbolism of the Karen Wrist Tying celebration.

“In our country, ethnic nationalities including Karen and other ethnic nationalities of Myanmar need to live in harmony in a family and friendly spirit. Holding cultural celebration like this helps bring unity love among not just one, but many families.”

The Karen wrist-tying ceremony is handed down by Karen ancestors and is held on the Karen month of Lah Khu [the Burmese month of Wagaung – August). Historians claim the Karen’s ancestors believed that in order to protect their children, grandchildren or great grandchildren from harm from evil spirits, the elders must tie a piece of white thread on their wrists, while praying or chanting to drive the evil spirits away. This traditional event is also a time for family reunions, discussion on social affairs and for bringing unity to Karen.

Naw Eh Wah, a villager attending the celebrations spoke to Karen News.

“I thought that the wrist tying celebration was just a religious celebration. Now, I know it is not just a religious celebration. It is a wonderful Karen traditional custom, full of meaning.”

The essential items for a Karen wrist tying ceremony are seven ingredients – a glass or bowl of cold water, white threads, rice balls, triangular-shaped lumps of sticky rice, bananas, branches of flowers and pieces of sugar cane.

Karen wrist tying is annually celebrated in the month of August by Karen people, not only in Burma, but also by those living in overseas countries. This year’s celebration is the 36th year that the Karen wrist tying has been held in Hpa-an, Karen State. The celebration also included a program on Karen history, the history of wrist tying and singing and dancing.

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