Buddhist Holidays

Buddhism is observed in many different countries and cultures, using different calendars, making a common "Buddhist calendar" difficult.  In general, "lunar month" refers to the Chinese calendar, also used by Koreans and Vietnamese.  Japanese holidays are observed on the Western/Gregorian calendar.  And Therevadan observances use the Indian lunar calendar.

Maitreya Buddha's birthday (Ist day of 1st lunar month) -

Magha Puja Day or Sangha Day (full moon of Magha, usually in Feb) - Therevadan Buddhist celebration of the presentation of teachings by Lord Buddha to an assembly.  It was the day that the first Sangha was formed.

Sakymuni's Renunciation Day (8th day of 2nd lunar month) - The day that Prince Sakyamuni renounced his worldly station in order to seek the root of suffering on behalf of all living beings.

Nirvana Day (15th day - full moon - of second lunar month) - Mahayana celebration of the day that the Buddha attained Parinirvana (death without rebirth). Buddhists observe the day by meditating or by going to Buddhist temples or monasteries. Food is prepared and some people bring presents such as money, household goods or clothes. Some Buddhists read passages from The Paranibbana Sutta, which describes the last days of Buddha.

Kwan Yin Pusa/Avalokitesvara's birthday (19th day of 2nd lunar month) - Bodhisattva of Compassion

Pu Hsien Pusa/Samantabhadra's birthday (21st day of 2nd lunar month) - Bodhisattva of Praxis

Wen Shu Pusa/Manjushri's birthday (4th day of 4th lunar month) - Bodhisattva of Wisdom

Sakyamuni Buddha's Birthday (8th day of 4th lunar month, or April 8th in Japan) - Mahayana Buddhists observe this day as the Buddha's birthday.  Stories are told of the Buddha's birth and his destiny. 

Wesak (full moon of Vesakha or 15th day of 4th Chinese lunar month, usually in May) - Therevadan Buddhists observe this day to commemorate the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death (parinirvana).  The day is celebrated by all Buddhists. Begins Mahayanan Vassa

Asalha Puja or Dharma Day (full moon of Ashahda, usually in July) - Commemorates the Buddha's first discourse, given to five ascetics in the Deer Park at Sarnath (near Varanasi, India).  In the Mahayana tradtion, this marks the first turning of the Dhamma wheel. The day is usually celebrated by merit making, listening to a sermon by a monk or nun, and joining a candle lit procession during the night.  Some Buddhists read passages from the reading the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which describes the event.  In the Therevadan tradition, it is the preferred day for Buddhist men to be ordained as monks.

Therevadan Vassa (3 lunar months, starting the 16th day of Ashadha, usually July, until the full moon of Asvina, usually October) - The traditional three month long Rainy-Season Retreat observed by Therevadan monks and nuns.

Ta-Shih Chi Pusa/Mahasthamaprapta's birthday (13th day of 7th lunar month) - Bodhisattva of Power

Ullambana (15th night - full moon - of the 7th lunar month in China, July 15th in Japan) - Festival to honor the dead. Involves lighting of bonfires, traditional meal, paper lanterns, folk dances.  Ends Mahayanan Vassa.  (See Ghost Festival under Taoist Holidays. Also known as Bon in Japan.)

Patriarch Nagarjuna's birthday (24th day of 7th lunar month) - Founder of Madhyamaka, a MahayanaBuddhist school of thought that lead to Ch'an.

Di Cang Pusa/Ksitigarbha's birthday (30th day of 7th lunar month) - Bodhisattva of the Margins.  Ksitigarbha's birthday falls at the end of "ghost month."

Ananda's Day (8th day of 8th lunar month) - Keeper of the Dharma and advocate for women.

Pavarana Day (15th day of Asvina, usually in October) - End of Therevadan Vassa.  On this day, monks and nuns atone for any offense they might have committed during Vassa.  Begins a one-month time for laity to present needed gifts/alms of cloth for robes andfood to the monks and nuns.

Bhaisajya/Medicine Buddha's birthday (30th day of the 9th lunar month) - Buddha of the Eastern Pure Land.

Patriarch Bodhidarma's birthday (5th day of the 10th lunar month) - Founder of Ch'an Buddhism.

Amitabha Buddha's birthday (17th day of 11th lunar month) - Buddha of the Western Pure Land.

Bodhi Day (8th day of 12th lunar month in China, Dec 8th in Japan) - Mahayana Buddhist celebration of the time when Prince Gautama attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.  It is a day for Buddhists to profess their faith, to reaffirm their commitment to the Buddha, his teachings (the Dharma), and his disciples (the Sangha).

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