Major Buddhist Holidays that are celebrated at the Buddha Center
(There are many more holidays and traditions celebrate at different days). Since we represent a mix of traditions at the center, we choose to celebrate the following with an event at the center)
Parinirvana, or Nirvana Day (Mahayana)
On this day some schools of Mahayana Buddhism observe the death of the Buddha and his entrance into Nirvana. Nirvana Day is a time for contemplation of the Buddha’s teachings. Some monasteries and temples hold meditation retreats. Others open their doors to laypeople, who bring gifts of money and household goods to support monks and nuns.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is not, strictly speaking, a Buddhist holiday. However, Chinese Buddhists begin the New Year by going to a temple to offer incense and prayers.
Losar (Tibetan New Year)
In Tibetan monasteries, observance of Losar begins during the last days of the old year. Monks perform special rituals evoking protective deities and clean and decorate the monasteries. The first day of Losar is a day of elaborate ceremonies, including dances and recitations of Buddhist teachings. The remaining two days are for a more secular festival. On the third day, old prayer flags are replaced with new ones.
Vesak Tibetan, or Hanamatsuri (Buddha’s Birthday, Japan)
this is the day we celebrate at the center.
In Japan, Buddha’s birthday is observed every April 8 with Hanamatsuri, or “Flower Festival.” On this day people bring fresh flowers to temples in remembrance of the Buddha’s birth in a grove of blossoming trees.
A common ritual for Buddha’s birthday is “washing” a figure of the baby Buddha with tea. The figure of baby Buddha is placed in a basin, and people fill ladles with tea and pour the tea over the figure. These and other traditions are explained in the story of the Buddha’s birth.
July 6, : Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The current and 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on this day in 1935.
Chokhor Duchen (Tibetan)
Chokhor Duchen commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon and the teaching of the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha’s first sermon is called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, meaning the sutra (sermon of the Buddha) “setting the wheel of dhamma [dharma] in motion.”
On this day, Tibetan Buddhists make pilgrimages to holy places, offering incense and hanging prayer flags.
Zhongyuan (Hungry Ghost Festival, China)
Hungry ghost festivals traditionally are held in China beginning on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. Hungry ghosts are insatiably hungry creatures born into a miserable existence because of their greed.
According to Chinese folklore, the unhappy dead walk among the living throughout the month and must be placated with food, incense, fake paper money, and even cars and homes, also paper and burned as offerings. This is also a traditional time to honor the memories of departed loved ones, unhappy or not.
The end of “ghost month,” September 4 this year, is observed as the birthday of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
October 11, Birthday of Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh (called Thây by his students) has led an extraordinary life. Monasteries in the tradition of Thay are located in France (Plum Village), Germany (European Institute of Applied Buddhism), New York (Blue Cliff Monastery), California (Deer Park Monastery) and Mississippi (Magnolia Grove Monastery).