Vesak Day is a sacred holiday for many Buddhists and is celebrated across the world. In many south east Asian countries such as: Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, in addition to several Indian countries: Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar there are public celebrations due to the extensive number of Buddhists within the population. Other countries such as Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan also have celebrations but not as substantial. Due to its widespread observance there are many different methods of honoring the day depending on the country and the region.
Vesak Day commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Siddhartha Gautama. It is said that all of these events occurred on the same day making it one of the most significant days in Buddhism. The holiday is celebrated on the first full moon according to the Lunar calendar and typically falls in April or May.
Temples are adorned with flags and flowers, and many people like to bring simple offerings to lay at the feet of prominent statues. These gifts may include flowers, incense, and candles. Some temples put out a small Buddha statue with a small basin of water at the feet in order to let people bathe the statue. This is meant to symbolize the cleansing away of bad karma. It is also a re-enactment of the events following the Buddha’s birth. It is believed that when he was born the devas and spirits showered him with sacred waters from the sky.
Vesak day is primarily a day of kindness. No matter where you are celebrating it is expected to act in accordance with love. It is common to see people performing acts of kindness as Buddhists believe that the positivity from these deeds is multiplied. There are often parades with illuminated statues, lit candles, and the two hour “Three Step One Bow” ritual where people will take steps on their knees and bow in prayer every few moments. People will often take part in dances and meditation. Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance that there is no violence and Buddhists are expected to eat vegetarian for the day.