Festivals (in cyclical order)
Wesak or Vaisakha Puja
Wesak is the most important festival in the Buddhist calendar. Theravada Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha on this day. Mahayana Buddhists have separate days to celebrate each to them. Houses are decorated with lanterns and garlands and in many countries captive birds are released to symbolise Buddha's compassion. The particular emphasis of the day is on these three phases of Buddha's life.
Poson or Dhamma Vijaya
Poson is a Theravada festival which celebrates the first preaching of Buddhist doctrine outside India, particularly in Sri Lanka.
This Mahayana festival is celebrated by Japanese Buddhists. It is a time of remembering family ancestors. They are welcomed back home with feasting and dancing. Fires are also lit to light their arrival and departure. A similar Chinese Buddhist festival in September is called 'Lost Souls' or 'All Souls Day'.
Asala Puja or Dhammcakka Day
This festival of the 'Turning of the Wheel of the Law' is a Theravada celebration of the First Proclamation by Gautama Buddha in the Deer Park, near Benares. His Proclamation taught of the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths.
Higan or Shuban No Hi
This Mahayana festival marks the autumn equinox. As at the spring equinox, harmony and balance are the themes, sutras are recited and the graves of relatives are visited.
Omisoka is a Japanese festival during which preparations for the new year are made by cleansing home shrines and altars. The bells of Buddhist temples are struck 108 times to warn against the 108 evils to be overcome.
New Year's Day is celebrated in various ways in different countries. Usually there are parades and in shrines the images of Buddha are ceremonially bathed.
This festival at the full moon of March is celebration to remember the occasion when 500 monks independently travelled to be with the Buddha to hear his teaching.
This flower festival marks the Japanese celebration of the birth of the Buddha, which Mahayanas fix in 565 BCE. Tradition has it that the Buddha was born in a garden, so floral shrines are made and an image of the infant Buddha is set in each shrine and bathed.