Today, May 6th, 2019, is Visakha Bucha Day, a Buddhist religious holiday and arguably one of the holiest days of the year in Thailand.
This year, however, the holiday will look significantly different than prior years due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak worldwide, despite the number of official recorded infections dramatically lowering in Thailand over the past several weeks with only one new case, an imported one from Malaysia, recorded yesterday in the entire Kingdom of Thailand.
Temples across Thailand have been instructed to cancel, postpone or severely limit public facing events for the holiday to help encourage physical distancing. Monks will, however, still perform rituals that will mark the birth, enlightenment and passing, or Parinirvana, of Lord Buddha at their temples. They will follow physical distancing suggestions and utilize proper hygiene requirements.
For the first time in history, according to the Bangkok Post, Wat Bowon also presents a live streaming of activities for all Buddhists to follow right at their homes via the temple’s Facebook page. This is the first time we are encouraged to perform a wian tian (Circle candle, literally) ceremony virtually together with the monks (we at home, the monks at the temple) starting at 7:00 pm. Afterwards, a series of sermons will be delivered live at the temple’s ordination hall from 9:00 pm until dawn on Thursday. Visit bit.ly/2WhiRK6 to experience this for yourself.
Alcohol sales, despite just being made legal after a three week ban to help discourage social gatherings on Sunday of this week, will be illegal country wide today. This has nothing to do with the Covid-19 Coronavirus but is traditional for Buddhist religious holidays in Thailand. Bars, nightlife and other venues are also closed country wide on religious holidays, however, due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus most entertainment venues have currently been force closed since mid March, with no announcements on re-opening in the near future.
Buddhists will traditionally celebrate this day by performing charitable acts, visiting temples to pay homage to Lord Buddha, assisting with volunteer work, helping the elderly and sick as well as performing actions such as assisting at temples. Due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus, however, as stated above, followers are encouraged to mark the day virtually and at home if possible. Temple fairs, markets, public teachings and sermons and other large religious events are cancelled. Smaller events, such as those performed by local and National leaders, may take place but limit the number of attendees.
Happy Vesak Day!