Buddha's Birthday 2017 and 2018
The birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, later known as Gautama Buddha and the founder of Buddhism, is a public holiday in Macao as well as other countries with a large number of practicing Buddhists.
|2017||3 May||Wed||Buddha's Birthday|
|2018||22 May||Tue||Buddha's Birthday|
Because the exact date is of Buddha’s birth is based on the Asian lunisolar calendar, the date of the holiday changes each year, but is normally celebrated in April or May. During leap years, it may be celebrated in June.
Siddhartha Guatama was born to a royal family in what is now Nepal, India. He was sheltered from the negative aspects of the world as his family planned for him to become a great ruler. At the age of 29, however, on a rare outing from the palace, he was confronted with illness and death, sending him into despair as he realised he could not protect his kingdom or his family from illness and death. He encountered a meditator and, when their eyes met, Buddha realised that perfection could not be found in the outside world but existed in the mind.
Buddha returned to the palace, but secretly left one night to seek enlightenment in the forest. For the next six years, he worked with meditation instructors and mastered their techniques. However, he discovered that the instructors were only showing him the mind’s potential. He arrived in Bodhgaya and decided to remain in meditation until he knew the mind’s true nature. He reached enlightenment on the full moon morning of May, one week before he turned 35.
From that point on, Buddha traveled on foot through northern India teaching people of all castes and professions. Kings and peasants were drawn to him as he pointed them toward what was real.
History of Buddha’s Birthday Holiday
Nearly 80 percent of Macao citizens practice Buddhism. Historically, his birthday was celebrated on April 8, but the exact date is unknown. Therefore, the public holiday is based on full moons, it can be celebrated as early as April or as late as June in Macao.
Traditions and Celebrations
Buddha’s birthday is widely celebrated in Macao. Statues of the baby Buddha are bathed with tea or water, lanterns are hung and there are extended temple services. Some citizens free caged birds or make offerings at temples. One of the best-known festivals held around Buddha’s birthday is the Feast of the Drunken Dragon. Legend has it that a great plague had devastated the Macao area and villagers carried a statue of Buddha through the fields, asking him to rid the village of the illness. A large python rose up, blocking their way. One of the villagers, who was said to have gained courage from alcohol, slashed the python into three pieces and it fell into the river. The pieces flew up into the sky with much wind and thunder. People recovered from the plague and it is believed the blood from the python spilled on the ground made it more fertile. Each year, the people of Macao, on Buddha’s birthday, drink and dance with the dragon.
During the festival, locals parade around the city dancing with wooden dragon statues and spitting or spraying alcohol. The parade ends in the harbour where food and alcohol are served to continue the celebration.