Siddhartha Gautam, the first Buddha, founded Buddhism in the 6th century BCE in Northern India. Two major forms of Buddhism evolved as Buddhism spread across Asia. The Theravada (southern) tradition is found in Burma, Cambodia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and parts of Vietnam. The Mahayana (northern) tradition is found in China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Tibet and Vietnam. Buddhist teachings guide followers to attain liberation from rebirth through Dharma (Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path) and Karma (action with cause and effect). Buddhist calendars vary based on the diverse traditions of the adherents’ school of thought. This calendar reflects major dates in all three of the Buddhist calendars.
Amitabha Buddha’s Birthday
This day celebrates the birthday of Amitabha Buddha, Buddha of the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’s Birthday
This day celebrates the birthday of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Avolokitesvara Bodhisattva's Enlightenment
This day celebrates the enlightenment of Avolokitesvara Bodhisattva ("The Bodhisattva of Compassion"), the saviour of beings who suffer in the hellish realms, as well as the guardian of children and patron of deceased children in Japanese culture. Participants in celebrations on this day often participate in chanting.
Avalokitesvara Pravrajya/The Buddhist Joy Day
Mahayana Buddhists offer prayers to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas on this day. Adherents reflect on his Day of Enlightenment, and practice his taught path to achieving enlightenment (spiritual realization and attainment) by chanting mantras, reading sutras and meditating. This day commemorates Avalokitesvara's ordination in the path of the Buddha and practice of the Bodhisattva.
This day marks the anniversary of the Buddha’s awakening. It is a day for Buddhists to profess their faith.
This date celebrates the day that Buddhism was established; it is celebrated with readings from Buddhist scriptures and reflection on these readings.
Kathrina Ceremony/Pavarana Day
Pavarana Day marks the end of Vassa, the three month rains retreat for the Ordained. It is a day of celebration for Buddhists. The Kathrina Ceremony (robe offering ceremony) occurs on this day, wherein devotees offer robes to the monks.
This festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar year. The celebration involves carrying various lanterns through the streets as well as hosting dances and fireworks. It is a celebration of family unity and community wholeness.
This is a day of merit making for Buddhists. Buddhists visit temples to listen to sermons and perform good deeds; lanterns are lit to show respect for Buddha.
Lunar New Year/Maitreya Bodhisattva’s Birthday
Followers of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition celebrate the New Year around the end of January/beginning of February each year. They visit temples and distribute food to the poor in the afternoon. The day concludes with chanting of the Buddha's teachings and meditation.
Poson/Asalha Puja Day
This day commemorates the Buddha's first discourse to his original five disciples. The day is observed by donating offerings to the temples and listening to sermons. Poson commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Buddha’s disciple Mahinda.
Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday
Day celebrates the birth of the founder of Buddhism. Born a prince (Siddhartha Guatama), he became concerned with inequities and human life and therefore gave up his royal position in pursuit of a virtuous life. He achieved enlightenment at the age of 35 and became Sakyamuni Buddha. Buddhists celebrate with prayer and offering incense, fruits, flowers and donations in temples.
Sakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment
This day marks the date in history when the Sakyamuni Buddha achieved enlightenment after 49 days of meditation.
Sakyamuni Buddha’s Nirvana Day
This day marks the date that Sakyamuni Buddha passed away into Nirvana. On this day, Buddhists express gratitude and appreciation for the Buddhist teachings he provided.
Buddhists of all schools attend a special service in the temple on this day in dedication of their faith
Theravada New Year
In Theravada countries, the New Year is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. On this day, Buddhists visit temples to offer prayers and worship Lord Buddha. Buildings and homes are cleaned, new clothes are worn, and feasts are prepared.
Wesak is celebrated on the full moon in May and is an important Buddhist festival. This day celebrates the Buddha's birthday, and, for some Buddhists, also commemorates his enlightenment and death.