RANGOON—As the last sunlight of 2012 faded on Monday, Rangoon seemed to be in more festive mood than on any other day this year and thousands of people began to stream into Myoma Parade Ground, where the city’s first-ever public New Year’s Eve countdown was being held.
Excitement started build at the ‘Myanmar Countdown 2013’ as the large crowds—mostly city youths dressed in their newest outfits—gathered at the big stage, where DJs began to bring their sound systems to life.
“Now is the time to celebrate. So it’s good for us to have a place like this to ring in the New Year,” said Thin Thin, a 20-something Rangoon girl who joined the celebrations with her friends.
Myanmar Index Creative Village, a Burmese subsidiary of Thailand’s largest event organizer Index Creative Village (ICV), and several other Burmese companies had taken the initiative to host the company-sponsored countdown, which offered six hours of musical performances, comedy sketches, lights effects and fireworks.
Burma’s first-ever New Year countdown—paid for by ICV at $1 million—made a deep impression on Rangoon’s New Year revelers and they danced and sang along with Burmese renditions of the Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler’s 1992 hit ‘Call me’ and Swedish rock band Europe’s 1986 hit ‘The Final Countdown.’
Performances by Burmese comedians also went down well, in particular when they took on popular issues such as Rangoon’s perennial power shortages, which frequently blackout large parts of the city for many hours.
“Please only sell our natural gas to neighboring countries if we have a power surplus!” one comedian yelled to loud applause from a rapturous audience. “Yeah, you are striking the right chord, good boys!” shouted a middle-aged woman in appreciation.
When midnight finally approached and the MC counted down, the crowds joined in unison. As a big LCD display light up and showed 12:00 a loud “Happy New Year” could be heard among the revelers. For the first time in their lives Rangoon’s citizens had welcomed the New Year together in a public event, offering another sign of how fast Burma’s transition is changing society.
As midnight arrived a young couple in the crowd kissed—an uncommon sight in public in Burma—and onlookers reacted with joy and cheered.
Some foreign tourists at the event seemed equally impressed with Burma’s rapid pace of change.
“Man, I can’t believe it! I’ve joined the first ever official public New Year countdown in Burma,” said an American visitor, who was carrying a beer can in each hand. “It’s amazing,” he added, before making his way out of the grounds.