Visakha Bucha or Vesak Day is one of the most important holidays in the Thai calendar. It is a lunar holiday and takes place on the 15th day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar – which is usually in May.
Visakha Bucha marks the day of three particularly significant occurrences to the followers of Buddhism:
- The Buddha was born on this day.
- The Buddha achieved Nirvana, otherwise known as ‘the enlightenment’ on this day.
- On reaching the age of 80, the Buddha passed away on this day.
To mark these monumental occurrences in Buddha’s life, Buddhists on Koh Tao celebrate Visakha Bucha by taking offerings to the temple for the local monks early in the morning, normally at sunrise. Later in the day, a further temple visit is made to take part in services and processions. Normally this includes a procession where all attendees carry flowers and light incense sticks and candles which they offer at the alter whilst making a prayer to Buddha. While at the temple, attendees listen to sermons on Buddha’s teachings, meditate, and offer more food to the monks and temple workers.
As one of the major Buddhist holidays, the sale of alcohol is prohibited on Visakha Bucha, so you can expect many of the late-night bars and party venues on Koh Tao to be closed.
As one of the most peaceful religions in the world, the concept of karma and the practice of giving without receiving runs deep throughout the belief system of the Thai people. So in addition to worshipping Buddha, Visakha Bucha is also a day where special efforts are made to bring happiness to others. As well as donations to the temple, many Thais also mark the day by making charitable donations to the less fortunate, sick, elderly, and handicapped. Gifts are varied and come in the form of food, money, or even time spent volunteering in charitable homes.