Vesak (Buddha Day)

Fast Facts: Vesak (Buddha Day)
Faith(s) Buddhism
Names Vesak, Wesak, Vesākha, Vaiśākha, Buddha Day, Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima
Meaning celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death (passing into nirvana) of the Buddha; most important festival in Buddhism
Date full moon day of the lunar month of Vesakha (usually falls in May)
Dates May 26, 2021
May 16, 2022
May 5, 2023
May 25, 2024
May 12, 2025

Vesak, also known as Buddha Day, is the most important festival in Buddhism.1825 On the full moon day of the Indian lunar month of Vesakha, which usually falls in May, Theravada Buddhists in Southeast Asia celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha in a single day. Mahayana Buddhists often celebrate these events separately.

Meaning of Vesak

According to Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha's birth, enlightenment (at age 35), and death (at age 80) all occurred on the full moon day of Vesakha. His death, which is more commonly referred to as his "passing into nirvana," is just as worthy of celebration as his birth and enlightenment, because he escaped the cycle of reincarnation and attained nirvana.1825

Vesak Rituals and Observances

Celebrations of Vesakh vary by location, culture, and Buddhist sect, but most Buddhists will celebrate the holiday by visiting a temple (sometimes throughout the full-moon night), donating food or supplies to monks or temples, releasing birds in honor of the Buddha's compassion, reaffirming one's commitment to the Buddha's teachings, chanting, meditating, and/or listening to sermons.1825 [#1830]

In many Buddhist countries, Vesakh is a festival of lights. Temples and shrines may be illuminated with candles or oil lamps; in Sri Lanka, paper lanterns are burned at the end of the festival.1826


  1. Wesak.” BBC Religion & Ethics.
  2. “Wesak.” Keown, Damien, Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism (Oxford University Press). "Name of the month corresponding to the Western April-May. The name has come to indicate the festival celebrated by Theravada Buddhists on the full-moon day of the same month commemorating the Buddha's birth, renunciation, enlightenment..., and death."
  3. Vesak.” Wikipedia.
  4. “Vesakha.” Hinnells, John R. (ed.), Penguin Dictionary of Religions (London: Penguin Books). "The festival that celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death... of the Buddha.... In many Buddhist countries, this is a "festival of lights.""
  5. Significance of Vesak.” Buddhanet.
  6. Wesak (Buddhist festival).” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.
  7. Nakamura, Hajime. “Buddhism: Popular religious practices: Anniversaries.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.
  8. Day of Vesak.”
  9. Wesak.” GCSE Religious Studies - BBC Bitesize.

Article Info

Title Vesak (Buddha Day)
Last UpdatedFebruary 24, 2021
URL religionfacts.com/vesak
Short URLrlft.co/564
MLA Citation “Vesak (Buddha Day).” ReligionFacts.com. 24 Feb. 2021. Web. Accessed 23 Jan. 2022. <religionfacts.com/vesak>