Festivals and retreats

There are many festivals in Buddhism due to the fact that there are many different cultures with followers of Buddhism. However, all of these festivals focus on the Buddha and his life and teachings. Although many of the festivals are times of celebration and happiness, others are not as happy and are more times of sadness.

Mahayana Buddhists have some festivals that remember and celebrate the lives of Bodhisattvas, who are important as they are people who have become enlightened.

Buddhist retreats

Retreats are important for many Buddhists as they provide a chance to spend periods of time with other Buddhists away from everyday life. Retreats involve various aspects of Buddhism, such as meditation and studying the Buddha's teachings.

One important retreat is called Vassa, or Rains Retreat. This is an annual retreat that takes place over a three-month period during the rainy season from July to October. During this time, monks gather and devote a lot of time to study. They do this to remember the Buddha, who is said to have spent time in a forest near the city of Varanasi in India taking shelter from the rain. The monks also remember their commitment to the Buddha’s teachings during this time.


Wesak is celebrated through the release of paper lanterns

Wesak, also called Buddha Day, is a very important festival in Buddhism. Buddhists celebrate Wesak to remember the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. These three events are said to have happened on the same day of the year. Buddhists also honour the Buddha and remember his teachings.

Wesak takes place at the full moon during May or June. Buddhists usually decorate temples and light lamps to signify enlightenment. Friends send Wesak cards to each other and lanterns are made. The lanterns are commonly used in temples to decorate Bodhi trees and stupas. Monks make offerings to the Buddha and give special talks particularly focusing on the Buddha’s life.


Parinibbana (also known as Parinirvana), is also called Nibbana Day, is a Mahayana Buddhist festival that is celebrated during February. Parinibbana means ‘nibbana after death.’ This is when a person has achieved enlightenment (nirvana) during their lifetime and has broken the cycle of samsara. This festival recalls the fact that the Buddha went into Parinibbana. Buddhists celebrate that the Buddha died but reached enlightenment and attained nibbana.

During this festival, Buddhists think about their own death and also remember others in their lives who have died. This enables them to consider how they will reach nibbana. The festival also reflects the Buddhist idea of anicca or impermanence and the belief that nothing lasts forever. To celebrate the festival, Buddhists visit their local temple, meditate and reflect.

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