Celebrating Wesak – Buddha Day

Buddhist day - wesakWesak, or Buddha Day is an important festival in the Buddhist calender because on this day the Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and died. All three of these significant events fell on the same day.

The festival is celebrated with lots of colour, joy and fun where temples, streets and homes are cleaned and decorated with Buddhist flags and flowers.

The date changes each year, because Wesak is a lunar festival. It is celebrated beginning at dawn on the night of the full moon in May/June. During 2010, that’s 27th May.

Wesak around the world

In Thailand special Wesak lanterns are made of paper and wood, and often there a large ceremonial releases of caged birds as a symbolic act of liberation and giving freedom to those who are in captivity.

In Sri Lanka, two days are set aside for celebration of Wesak and all liquor shops and slaughter houses are closed by government decree during the two days.

In many countries Buddhists visit their local temple for services and teaching, and give offerings to the monks of food, candles and flowers where there is a ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist flag.

Celebrating Wesak also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick.

Eight precepts

Devout Buddhists will spend time meditating on and observing the eight precepts which are:
1.   Not to kill
2.   Not to steal
3.   To observe celibacy
4.   Not to indulge in wrong speech
5.   Not to take intoxicating drinks and drugs
6.   To abstain from taking food at unreasonable time
7.   To refrain from immoral and illicit pleasures
8.   To refrain from using high seats in order to practice humility.

Celebrating wesak with children

If you want to celebrate Wesak at home, here are some suggestions!

  • Clean and decorate your home with colour and light joss sticks to cleanse the air.
  • Make your own lanterns for Wesak. Decorate them with symbols of Buddha’s birth and enlightenment such as lotus flowers, lights and the bodhi tree.
  • Serve a special vegetarian meal and have a centrepiece on your table of candles and flowers.
  • Make a Buddhist flag and fly it!
  • Spend time discussing the eight precepts with older children.
  • Bring happiness to others; for example distribute gifts to the less fortunate, help out in a soup kitchen or spend time with someone who is lonely or ill.

Wesak Resources:

BBC Religions – Wesak    http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/holydays/wesak.shtml
Maithri.com http://www.maithri.com/articles_new/Celebration_of_Wesak.htm
Woodlands Junior school – http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/Homework/religion/buddhistfestivals.htm
Buddhist studies for primary students http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/pbs2_unit07a.htm
Class room activities during Wesak http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/religion/buddhism/buddha_day_activities.shtml
Work sheets for Wesak http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/religion/buddhism/buddha_day_worksheets.shtml

What about you. Will you be celebrating Wesak?