Buddhist temples become laden with flowers, incense and candles as worshippers gather to pray and then spread good deeds throughout the nation.
What: Vesak Day is a public holiday in Singapore celebrated by Buddhists. It is the most significant day on the Buddhist calendar and is to reflect on the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha, as well as to spread joy and peace.
When: Vesak Day changes every year and is usually in May, the reason being that the date is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
Customs: It is customary for Buddhists to gather at a temple before dawn, raise the Buddhist flag and sing hymns. Temples are decorated with flags and flowers and worshippers bring along gifts such as incense, flowers and candles to lay at the feet of Buddhist statues.
It is common for Buddhists to go about doing good deeds on Vesak day, such as aiding the poor, visiting the elderly, donating to charity, releasing caged animals and donating blood at the hospital.
The day finishes with a candle lit procession through the streets.
Highlights: The official procession is exhausting to perform but beautiful to watch as devotees perform the ‘three-step, one-bow’ ritual where they perform a bow at every third step as they pray. The procession is lit by candles with colourful floats and statues of Buddha scattered among the throngs of people.
Travel: Crowds around Buddhist temples and during the parade make certain areas of Singapore significantly busier. However all shops and restaurants remain open during this public holiday. Apart from the streets, the airports will be busy around Vesak day because it marks the last public holiday in Singapore for a few months so locals try to take advantage of the day off. Flights to Bangkok, Phuket, Bali and Hong Kong are likely to be booked out early.
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