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20 October 2014
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Wesak - First Full Moon in May

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Questions answered

Are presents given on Wesak?

Dancers at a Buddhist shrineGiving to others is an important part of Buddhist tradition. Gifts may be exchanged as part of the festivities on Wesak. There is also emphasis on giving to the needy. Devotees may visit orphanages, welfare homes, homes for the aged or charitable institutions, distributing cash donations and gifts. Some youth organisations organise mass blood donation to hospitals. Donations are also made to monks and nuns.

Why is Wesak celebrated on different days and why does it have different names?

Buddhists, apart from the Japanese, use the lunar calendar to define when dates of festivals should take place. Dates when there is a full moon are used often.

What are the Five Precepts and how do they influence Buddhist celebrations?

All Buddhists live by the Five Moral Precepts which are refraining from:

  • harming living things
  • taking what is not given
  • sexual misconduct
  • lying or gossip
  • taking intoxicating substances eg drugs or drink

Buddhist monks live by ten precepts. The ten precepts are the five precepts plus refraining from the following:

  • taking substantial food after midday (from noon to dawn)
  • dancing, singing and music
  • use of garlands, perfumes and personal adornment like jewelery
  • use of luxurious beds and seats
  • accepting and holding money, gold or silver

Therefore on celebration days, Buddhists will often eat vegetarian food and will not drink alcohol. Gifts will be simple, especially those given to monks. Monks in particular will not dress up, and people will not eat to excess. However, Buddhist celebrations are also very joyful, colourful occasions.

More Buddhist events and festivals

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