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Buddhist Festivals and Holidays

Festivals and holidays are the times which provide a community to unite and celebrate the communal harmony and the spirit of the festival.  Similarly the Buddhist festivals and holidays are the occasions to celebrate.  Most of these festivals of Buddhism have religious connotations and contains specific rituals such as visiting the local temple or monasteries to pay the homage to monks and undertaking the Five Precepts.  The main features of these festivals includes feeding the poor in the afternoon and the circumambulation ceremony of stupa in the evening and ending with the chanting of Buddha’s teachings and performing meditation.

Buddhist Festivals :

There are various sacred days held throughout a year according to Buddhists community.  Many of the festivals of Buddhism are the celebration of the birthdays of Bodhisattvas.  Some of the main dates of Buddhist holidays include :                

  • Buddhist New Year :  in the countries following Mahayana sect of Buddhism, the New Year celebrations begin on the first full moon day in January.  In the countries following Theravada sect of Buddhism, the New Year celebrations last for three days starting from full moon day in April.     
  • Vesak or Visakah Puja :  popularly celebrated on the first full moon day in May, the Vesak is the celebration of the birthday of Lord Buddha.  This is one of the most important days of Buddhism as the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha are celebrated on the same day.
  • Asalha Puja :  This day is celebrated on every full moon day of the 8th lunar month which is approximately in July, in order to pay homage to Buddha.  This is to celebrate the Buddha’s first teaching known as the turning of the wheel of the Dhamma. 
  • Kathina Ceremony :  This is an event which held on any convenient day during the three month long rains retreat season of Vassa.  It is the period when robes and other requisites are offered by laity to the monks.
  • Anapanasati Day :  This day is celebrated to commemorate one of the important incidents which occurred at the end of one of the rains retreat.  Buddha was very much pleased with the work of the assembled monks and therefore he encouraged them to further extend the retreat.  The discourse of Mindfulness was presented during this period itself therefore this period is celebrated with great passion and sincerity.
  • The Elephant Festival :  The example of elephant was used by Buddha which when is harnessed to a tame one to be trained similarly according to Buddhism a new devotee should be friends with an older Buddhist who can be helpful in understand the religion better.