1. Wesak Day is held annually during the full moon of the ancient lunar month of Vesakha.
According to the Buddhist scriptures (sutras), the three significant events of Buddha’s life – his birth, enlightenment and passing (Nirvana) – occurred during the lunar month of month of Vesakha.
2. Temple celebrations on Wesak Day consist of three main components: giving, virtue and cultivation.
To practice giving, Buddhists usually bring food to share at the temple, while being virtuous means to reaffirm the moral precepts of Buddhism (i.e. vegetarianism, wearing simple white clothing). They practice cultivation through chanting, meditation and being involved in community outreach activities.
3. The ‘Bathing the Buddha’ ceremony is a significant practice on Wesak Day.
The act of bathing the statue of Buddha with fragrant water symbolises the purification and cleansing of bad karma.
4. The Bodhi tree plays an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Buddhists.
According to the sutras, the Bodhi tree was where Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating. On Wesak Day, devotees walk around this tree which are usually planted at most temples and monasteries.
5. Wesak day is celebrated as a public holiday in many South East Asian countries.
Celebrations of Wesak day vary according to country, culture and tradition. Some of these countries include Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand.
6. The celebration is open to all.
While the Maha Vihara Temple in Brickfields is most popular amongst visitors, you may also want to visit the Thai Buddhist Chetawan Temple in Petaling Jaya or the Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple in Sentul. If you’re in Penang, head to the Wat Chaiyamangkalaram (a famous Thai Buddhist temple) and the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple, which are opposite each other on Lorong Burmah.
7. Wesak celebrations include a candlelight procession with colourfully decorated floats.
Devotees usually gather at various temples for the annual procession and participate by carrying candles and flowers. If you are keen to join, make sure to come dressed in white tops to signify purity.