Vesak Day, also called Visakha Bucha Day in Thailand, is marked on the day of the full moon in the month of May yearly. Marked on the 26th of this year, it is observed as a public holiday as Thai people usually attend rituals such as the Buddha bathing ceremony at local temples.
The day commemorates the birth, the attainment of enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. These three significant events miraculously took place on the same day but in different years.
As the majority of Thai people are Buddhist, when Vesak day arrives, they visit their temples and bring offerings of food, candles, and flowers to the monks. The monks pray and teach Buddha’s lessons to all visitors at the temples. A special ceremony called the “Buddha bathing ceremony” also takes place on Vesak day.
Similar to other major Buddhist public holidays, five major Buddhist precepts are practiced on the day. They are (1) not harming living things; (2) not taking what is not given; (3) refraining from sexual misconduct; (4) avoiding telling lies or participating in gossip; (5) abstaining from alcoholic drinks and recreational drugs.
The prohibition of selling alcoholic beverages and the closure of bars are conducted in Thailand on this day every year. Due to Covid-19, entertainment venues have been closed for weeks and restaurants have been banned from selling alcohol nationwide. Therefore, this means the only major difference is people will be unable to purchase alcohol from supermarkets or small stores for take-away today.
Due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the ritual ceremonies and the temple visits are toned down among high-risk areas of Covid-19 infections, including in Bangkok and Chonburi. People are likely to pray, bathe a Buddha statue, and practice the five precepts at home for merit.
Under normal situations, without Covid-19, the day is also marked by sermons, temple fairs, candlelit walks, and up to thousands of people visiting local temples for events and to make merit. This year, however, for the second year in a row, that has been either majorly toned down or eliminated entirely, especially the temple fair, marketplace, and food aspects of the religious holiday.