Vesak, also known as “Buddha Day” fell on May 29 this year. It marks the birth, enlightenment, and death of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, born 2,600 years ago. These three significant events in the Buddha’s life are all said to have happened on the same day many years apart. Vesak is observed on different days year-to-year, as celebrations are planned for the first full moon of May, the month of Vesakha in Hindu and Buddhist calendars.
In each place where Vesak is celebrated, devotees typically assemble in their local temples for a ceremonial hoisting of the Buddhist flag and a singing of hymns praising the three jewels. Offerings of flowers, candles, and burning incense are made. From there, the method of celebration varies from place to place. Paper lanterns are lit and released into water and sky in South Korea and Indonesia, while extravagant light displays illustrate the Buddha’s life in Sri Lanka.