This celebration is usually held on the full moon in May. It celebrates the birth, enlightenment and in some traditions, death of Buddha. He is the most important figure in the Buddhist religion.
Siddharta Gautama was born around 580 BC in Nepal into the royal family. One day, after growing-up, getting married and having a child in his privileged life, Siddharta went outside the palace. For the first time ever, he saw an old man, a sick man and a corpse. He didn't like this but learned that old age, sickness and death came to all humans. Siddharta had also seen a monk and decided this was a sign that he should leave his protected life and live as a homeless Holy Man. During his travels, he looked for a way of escaping old age, sickness and death but nothing provided him with an answer. When he met an Indian ascetic, he was persuaded to live a life of extreme self-denial. This did not provide him with an answer either. Eventually, Siddharta abandoned this extreme lifestyle but did not return to his palace and riches, instead he found the Middle Way. One day, whilst meditating, Siddharta thought back on his experience of life. He finally achieved enlightenment, and the place where he sat is now a temple and pilgrimage site.
Wesak is a colourful festival. Celebrations include chanting, singing and praying, cleaning and decorating the home. Often, water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha to serve as a reminder to purify the mind from evil. Gifts are taken to an altar to be offered to the Buddha to show respect to him and to his teachings.