Each year on the full moon in May, festivals and celebrations marking the birth of Buddha take place worldwide. Many that are celebrating Buddha also consider this date to be one and the same with the date Buddha achieved enlightenment and the day he died. Buddha refers to “one who is awake” and has attained enlightenment, wisdom and compassion.
Two of the most popular festivals are the Wesak and Vesak, which celebratory practices vary from country to country. Wesak/Vesak festivals are generally celebrated with vibrant colors and much happiness. Homes are cleaned and decorated. Services are held at local temples where gifts of food, candles and flowers are offered to the monks. In several countries special lanterns are constructed from paper and wood. Other countries release large numbers of birds from cages as a symbolic gest. Celebrating Buddhaure of letting go of worries and troubles, and wishing happiness and wellbeing for all creatures.
Chinese traditions include dancing dragons and “Bathing the Buddha,” which serves as a reminder to purify one’s mind from ignorance, hatred and greed. In Malaysia, food is given to the needy and the Buddhist flag is raised. Celebrations include the singing of hymns, chanting, prayers and offering of alms.
What Buddhists Do In Celebrating Buddha
During this time of celebration, Buddhists do not eat meat as a symbolic gesture of compassion towards animals. Vegetarian meals and sweet rice porridge called Kheer are traditionally served. In Nepal, the birth of Buddha is celebrated for the entire month. Festivities are celebrated in a calm, soothing, gentle manner to keep in practice with the teachings of Buddha. Monks recite 2500 year old Buddha mantras and encourage people to respect all religions.
“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”- Buddha