Vesak Day, (which can be spelled 'Wesak') goes by dozens of names, from 'The Day of the Full Moon' to 'Buddha Jayanti', 'Buddha's Birthday' or simply 'Buddha Day'. It is the most important festival for Buddhists as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of The Buddha. Vesak the holiest and most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated by Buddhists all around the world, though it is recognised as a national public holiday in many countries all across Asia.
The Buddha's key messages and teachings of love, kindness and compassion are all central to Vesak. Gifts being given to all and good deeds such as helping those in need and donating money to charity are all practised throughout the day. Festivities begin at dawn, where homes are cleaned and decorated before visiting the temples to pray, chant, meditate and offer blessings. Houses and temples are filled and adorned with lotus flowers (the lotus flower symbolizing strength and resilience in Buddhism) and paper lanterns, which have become the most iconic symbolism of this day. Parades and processions take place in the streets filled with floats. giant Buddha statues, dancing and chanting. Pouring fresh water over all statues of Buddha is also done, which is a ceremony known as 'The Bathing of the Buddha'. It is believed that the water being poured over the statues represents new life purifying the mind, body, soul, and washing away any greed, hatred, ignorance and negativities from the self. In the evening, lanterns are lit and set off into the sky to symbolise freedom from all troubles.
The children at Whitehall Junior have been learning about Vesak this week and have been participating in different activities to understand more about it. We would like to wish you all a happy Vesak if you are celebrating, and invite you to share your experiences with us, if you so wish.