The following are some of the Buddhist Festivals which are celebrated all over the world. The celebrations vary socially and culturally, depending on the region in which it is celebrated.
1) Buddhist New Year: Buddhist New Year is celebrated in April for three days in countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia. In countries like China, Korea and Vietnam, New Year is celebrated in January.
2) Magha Puja Day: This is also known as “Sangha Day”. This festival is celebrated on full moon day of the third lunar month. When the Buddha visited Rajagaha city after the first “Rains Retreat” (Vassa) at the Deer Park in Sarnath, nearly 1250 Enlightened Saints, the appointed disciples of Buddha returned to pay respects to the Buddha. All the saints assembled in Veruvana Monastery with two chief disciples of the Buddha- Ven Sariputta and Ven Moggalana. The assembly of the saints is called as the Fourfold Assembly, because: a) All the saints were enlightened Souls b) All of them were ordained by the Buddha himself c) All the saints had assembled on their own and d) The congregation happened on a full moon day in the month of Maga (Feb- March).
3) Asalha Puja Day: This is also known as the “Dhamma Day”. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the first teaching of the Buddha, the turning of the Wheel of Dhamma to the five ascetics at the Deer Park in Sarnath, Benares. This festival is observed on the full moon day in July.
4) Pavarna Day: This day marks the end of Rains Retreat (Vassa).
5) Kathina Ceremony: This festival is observed by offering robes and other requisites to the Sangha by the laity- (people not belonging to the monastery). This festival is celebrated on any date within one month of the conclusion of Rains Retreat (Vassa). Rains Retreat is held for three months in the monastery.
6) Anapanasati Day: When the Rains Retreat ended in a particular season, the Buddha was so pleased with Vassa, that he asked the monks to extend it by another month. On the full moon day which marked the end of the four month of Retreat, Buddha presented the meditation technique- anapanasati.
7) Loy Krathong : During this festival, Buddhists bring bowls made of leaves filled with flowers, candles and incense sticks in it and let it afloat in a river. It is believed that as the bowls go afloat, their bad luck is also said to disappear. This festival is celebrated on the banks of the Narmada River in India. Traditionally this festival was celebrated to pay homage to the holy foot print of the Buddha on the banks of the River Narmada.
8) The Ploughing Festival : This festival is celebrated in May when two white oxen pull a gold painted plough. This tradition is followed by four girls dressed in white who scatter rice grains from gold and silver baskets. This festival is celebrated to commemorate the first moment of enlightenment of Buddha which is said to have occurred when Buddha was Seven years old, when he had gone with his father to watch ploughing.
9) Abhidhamma Day: This day is celebrated because it is believed that Buddha went to heavenly abode to share the knowledge of nirvana to his mother who had passed away some time back. The festival is mostly celebrated in Burma and other nearby countries with major buddhist influence.
10) The Festival of Tooth: It is believed that after the death Buddha, his teeth and bonese where not fully burnt down. Many believed to be worshipping the left over teeth. Sri Lanka is one of the countries which celebrates a 10 days festival to honor journey of that tooth to Sri Lanka.
11) Vesak Day (Buddha Day): This day is officially recognised by the United Nations as it is the one of the most important day to celebrate Buddhism. World wide the buddist monk celebrates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death to mark respect to him. The day is celebrated with vegetarian food as the killing of any animal is forbidden on this day.
12) Songkran: It is celebrated in Thailand, Mynamar to clean the negative energy of the house holds.
13) Tha Kathika ceremony: This ceremony is very important for the monks who have left the house and hae started the spiritual path. The new dresses are offered to the monks by the masters to their disciples.
14) Loy Krathong: This day is marked to remove any negative energy or the bad luck from the life. It is mostly celebrated near water as it is believed that by floating bowls filled with various spritual ingredients in the water one will be able to purify the mind and soul.