In Thailand, Buddha's birthday is known as Visakha Bucha Day. It is a holy day, so shops, bars and restaurants are barred from selling alcohol for 24 hours from midnight until midnight. All Government offices and many businesses will be closed. Schools and colleges may hang out yellow Buddhist flags to mark the day.

Visakha Bucha is the most important Buddhist holiday, celebrated by people all over the world and publicly recognised in countries where large numbers of Buddhists live.

Visakha Bucha Day commemorates what are considered the three major events in the life of Buddha: his birth, his enlightenment, and his death. All three events are believed to have occurred on the full moon of the sixth month in the lunar-based Thai calendar. This generally puts the holiday in May on the Gregorian calendar, though sometimes it lands in June.

Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism, was born in India some 3,000 years ago as a rich prince, but he left that life of luxury to seek out wisdom from the wise hermits who lived in woodlands scattered throughout the region at the time. He felt disappointed, however, and instead meditated under a Bodhi tree. There, he is believed to have attained enlightenment at the age of 35 and to have formulated the basic tenets of Buddhism. When he died at the age of 80. Buddhists believe he then entered the state of "nirvana" and escaped all suffering, death, and reincarnation.

In Thailand, Visakha Bucha Day is a time when the devout visit local temples to "make merit," by giving donations and engaging in various rituals. While there, they also listen to sermons on Buddha's teachings, meditate, recommit themselves to follow the five, or in some cases eight, precepts of Buddhism, and offer food to temple workers. Some also set birds or fish free as a means of eliminating "negative karma".

 

The Buddha Tree

The Buddha Tree