Buddha’s Birthday is a festival held every 15th day of the fourth month in the Lunar Calendar. The event takes place on the day of the full moon and is considered one of Vietnam’s most important religious and national festivals. Buddhism’s inherent importance in Vietnamese society makes this as one of the most celebrated events in the country.
What happens during Buddha’s Birthday?
Monks, locals, followers of Buddhism, and visitors gather themselves in a large pagoda specially chosen for the event on the early morning of Buddha’s Birthday.
Expect opulently decorated pagodas bearing the statue of Buddha in the midst of a majestic pink lotus. Vietnam celebrates Buddha’s Birthday the same way it does other festivals: an elaborate ceremony as well as entertaining activities are performed. This annual event dutifully preserves the country’s sacred and traditional rituals. Flowers and incense are offered along with prayers bearing intentions of peace and repentance.
Other than the sacred ceremonies, entertainment activities are aplenty. The image of Buddha is marched along a procession replete with brightly coloured decorations, flags and flowers. Vegetarian meals are also served while everyone offer songs of honor to Buddha’s teachings.
Charity works abound
Dutiful Buddhist followers similarly participate in charity activities such as helping the unfortunate and taking care of the aged. Come night, the sky is filled with sparkling lanterns as followers light sky lamps and offer prayers prior to sending off their messages to the heavens.
Animals are similarly set free while garlands of beautiful flowers, along with colorful lanterns, are made to float on the rivers. This ritual aims to assist the wandering souls of those who have drowned.
Followers also heed messages given during the Religious Rites as well as from the pagoda’s head monk. After which, free gifts and food are provided to kids and to those who are in need.
Previous Buddha Birthday festivals saw Buddhist dignitaries, nuns, and leaders of local agencies attend the event.
Water for Buddha
Water plays an integral role during the festival. Buddha images are bathed in water to symbolize spiritual cleansing. This sacred ritual similarly involves praying and bowing. The Buddha image is bathed by filling a ladle with water and pouring it onto the Buddha.
Buddha’s Birthday is an international event
The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 1999 which declared Buddha’s Birthday festival an international event of religion, culture, and world peace. The celebration honors the birth, death and enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha.
The festival attracts as much as ten thousand people. Attendees come from 100 regions and countries. The event is also a great opportunity for Vietnam to showcase its one-of-a-kind culture and tourism.
Locals value this event as an important holiday. Most modify their schedules to take time off from their work to participate in pagoda trips. Rituals occur in 300 pagodas all over the city, most of which occur alongside parades. The public always enjoys the colorful parade of flowers and Buddhist-themed vehicles that pass by Vietnam’s streets.