Vesak Day, also known as Buddha’s Day, will be celebrated this year on 7 May 2020. We cover the history, the dates, and the celebrations behind this culturally significant festival.
What is Vesak Day?
Vesak Day, otherwise known as Buddha’s Day, is a day where Buddhists gather to commemorate the birth, Nirvana (enlightenment) and Parinirvana (death) of Gautama Buddha. The central theme of Vesak Day is to promote love, peace and harmony following the teachings of Buddha, offering an opportunity for Buddhists to rededicate themselves to the faith. In Singapore, the public holiday is celebrated annually on the 15th day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
Vesak Day Dates
2020 – Thursday, 7 May
2021 – Wednesday, 26 May
2022 – Sunday, 15 May
How is Vesak Day celebrated?
Celebrations for the day begin at the crack of dawn, when devout followers of the faith congregate at temples to witness the hoisting of the Buddhist flag and sing hymns in praise of Buddha, Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (his disciples). Worshippers often bring offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which they lay at the feet of various statues of the Buddha. The withering of the flowers and burning of the candles and incense signifies the transience of life and represents acceptance that life, like the offerings, will eventually decay. The rest of the day is usually spent on Dana, or the act of doing good deeds, as devotees believe that performing acts of kindness on Vesak Day will multiply personal merit many times over.
The day ends with a candlelight procession through the streets of Singapore, during which statues of the Buddha are illuminated. Worshippers practise the “three-step, one-bow” ritual, which entails taking steps on both knees and bowing on the third step as they pray for prosperity, world peace and repentance. The procession usually lasts around two hours and is a great way for devout Buddhists to round off Vesak Day.