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Commemorate the Buddha on Makha Bucha Day, Celebrated in Southeast Asia

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On Feb.18th 2011, Thais, Cambodians and Laotians will be celebrating Makha Bucha Day. The holiday is a lunar celebration, meaning it is celebrated on different days in different years (last year, the holiday fell on February 28th). Yes, it is a public holiday, and yes it is a religious holiday, which means that most establishments won’t be selling alcohol, in lieu with one of the Buddha’s precepts refraining from taking intoxicants. Instead, locals will celebrate by going to a temple and performing merit making activities. The spiritual aims of the day are not to commit any kinds of sins, to purify one’s mind and to strongly adhere to the Precepts. A nice way to kick off a three day weekend, huh?

What is Makha Bucha? Why is it celebrated? The day commemorates the ordainment of Buddha’s first 1250 disciples who spontaneously came to see him and to listen to his sermon more than 2500 years ago. Ironically, this event happened during the full moon (which in turn makes full moon days throughout the year special). Years later, on this day, Buddha also predicted his death three months later. His is Buddha, so if course his prediction came true. That day is celebrated as Visakha Bucha Day (which also happens to be his birthday and enlightenment day).

If you are in Thailand, whisk to the nearest temple and see the evening candle-lit procession called the Wien Tien. People will walk around the temple three times, once each to venerate Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings), and the Sangha (monastic life), with incense sticks, a lotus flower and of course a candle.

Thailand, Cambodia and Laos hold strong Theravada Buddhist traditions and beliefs. If you do come over to one of these countries, you’ll certainly see the religion’s influence on the people and in their environment. And there’s not a better introduction to the region than Exotisimo’s Colorful Capitals tour.

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