Why do we celebrate Buddhist New Year in the first place and how is Vesak Day celebrated in different countries?
Vesak, also known as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Day, is the day when Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment, and died.
The official Vesak day is celebrated within the Theravada (mainly found in South East Asia) tradition on the first full-moon day in May, while the Mahayana (China, Japan, Korea) and Vajrayana (Tibet) traditions celebrate it on the first full-moon day in April.
Some Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar celebrate Vesak as a national holiday and countries that consist of multicultural communities such as Malaysia and Singapore would often have Vesak as a public holiday.
Despite the shared holiday, different countries tend to celebrate this day differently and namely by incorporating parts of their own culture into it. In Sri Lanka, it is a public holiday where people decorate their houses with lanterns and visit temples to make offerings. In Thailand, it is called Visakha Bucha and is marked by candlelit processions and visits to temples. In Nepal, it is celebrated with prayer flags, incense, and offerings at Buddhist shrines. In India, people visit Buddhist temples and offer prayers, while in Japan, it is a quiet day of meditation and reflection.
"Vesak", is the most sacred day to millions of Buddhists around the world. It was on the Day of Vesak two and a half millennia ago, in the year 623 B.C., that the Buddha was born.
To Buddhists, Vesak marks the most significant event in their religion - the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautama Buddha. It is a special occasion for the Buddhist community in Malaysia. The celebration usually involves devotees paying homage by visiting temples, making offerings, and participating in prayer and meditation. In some areas in Malaysia, processions and parades with decorated floats of Buddha are also held in the celebration.
The word "Vesak" also means "wish"; it is believed that by praying on this day, one's wishes will be granted.