National Day is one of the few non-religious (Buddhists) holidays in Myanmar.
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It is the anniversary of the beginning of unrest against British rule in 1920 that eventually led to independence in 1948. Specifically, it is the date of the first student strike at Rangoon (now Yangon) University. Further strikes occurred in 1935 and 1938, and these strikes served to rouse national identity and opposition to British colonial policies.
The exact date of National Day changes each year since it is based on the Burmese Calendar system. In Myanmar, the year 2015 is known as the year 1377, and there are 12 lunar months of 29 or 30 days each. This only adds up to 354 days, so an extra “make up month” is added every three years to catch up with the solar calendar. However, to make things align properly, it is sometimes added every two years instead. The date falls on the 10th day after the first full moon of the month Tazaungmon, which means that National Day can be anywhere from mid-November to early December.
The history leading up to the student revolt is the background of National Day. In 1824, the British conquered Burma. In 1886, Burma was added to British India, being a separate province within that realm. In 1919, Buddhist monks attempted to physically force Europeans out of a pagoda when they refused to remove their shoes before entering. This incident helped fuel the fire leading up to the student revolt. Finally, on December 5th, 1920, unpopular new British regulations led the students at Rangoon University to protest. Soon, the protests spread throughout the land to other schools. Ultimately, the unrest continued until independence was granted on December 4th, 1948.
While National Day is marked on the Myanmar calendar, it is not necessarily in itself a major time of public celebrations. Instead, many who feel the political situation in Myanmar is reminiscent of that of colonial times take to the streets to protest against the current ruling military power. Recently, free elections have been scheduled in Myanmar, after 25 years of military rule, so perhaps, this situation will change. Monks, students, and expatriates all are typically a part of the National Day protests, and there are often cries on this day for a new revolution.