Wesak is the biggest festival in Sri Lanka after the Sinhalese new year festival. Not only Sri Lankan Buddhists, but Buddhists in all over the world celebrate it. Celebration customs can be different from one country to another, but the meaning of the festival is same everywhere. With this short article, I’m going to tell you some Wesak festival customs in Sri Lanka and how Sri Lankan Buddhist people celebrate it.
Every year full moon day of May, Buddhists celebrate lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death (parinirvana). This festival called “Wesak” in Sri Lanka. Usually Sri Lankan people get two days holiday for this Buddhist festival. Here are some customs of it. Before few days of the festival, people start to build Wesak lanterns. They look like the one you see above. But have different colors and shapes. What you see above is the most common Wesak lantern that you can see in Sri Lanka. If you need to see more lanterns, please Google it.
Other than these lanterns, people decorate their homes by colorful paper buckets, bulbs, oil lamps and flowers. If you go to streets, there are more bigger lanterns and big light decorations called “thorana” in Sri Lankan language. Those are made by town councils, city councils, temples or groups of people. You can go to see these big lanterns and light decorations for free. However if you like, also can give them some money as a contribution.
On the Wesak day, All Buddhist temples have special programs. Lot of people go to participate for them. Few times, when I was in Sri Lanka, I also participated. Mostly these programs conducted by elderly monks and teach participants to meditate and give lectures about Buddhism. There’s another Wesak custom in Sri Lanka, it is free food and drinks giveaways. Most of the time, groups of people organize this kinda Wesak campaigns. In the evening or at night, all Buddhist people go to temples and honor their spiritual teacher, “Lord Buddha” by offering flowers, lighting oil lamps and incense.