Buddhism facts

Singapore Public Holidays: Vesak Day

This year, Vesak Day is May 15 – in case you’re not quite sure why you’re getting another public holiday in Singapore! Here are some facts and figures about this important Buddhist holiday.

#1 The day of Vesak is the most important day of the Buddhist calendar

Vesak Day celebrates three major events in the life of the Buddha: his birth, his enlightenment (nirvana) And the dead (parinirvana). The day is honored with temple visits, vegetarian meals and various offerings. Depending on the calendar you follow and your location, the date varies each year. In 2022, Vesak Day falls on May 6 in Singapore; it is the only Buddhist celebration among the public holidays.

#2 There are different branches of Buddhism

Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana are the three main branches of the religion. Theravada Buddhism is said to be closest to the original Indian form of Buddhism; it is practiced in countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma. In Singapore, Mahayana is the most practiced by Chinese Buddhists, followed by Theravada, practiced by the Burmese and also the Sri Lankan community.

vesak day public holidays singapore

#3 Practices and rituals may vary

Depending on the branch they follow, devotees celebrate the day of Vesak in slightly different ways. Mahayana Buddhists practice the “three steps, one bow” ritual, bowing or prostrating every three steps as they walk the perimeter of the temple. Theravada Buddhist celebrations include the cooking of a rice pudding with milk to symbolize Buddha’s last meal before his fasting period to attain Enlightenment.

Many Buddhists here organize blood donations in hospitals, visit the elderly, and also distribute gifts to the needy.

#4 Vesak Day Wasn’t Always a Public Holiday

The day was not officially discontinued in the work calendar until 1955. This followed petitions from the Buddhist Association of Singapore after World War II.

vesak day buddhist festival

#5 You don’t have to be a Buddhist to participate in the celebrations

Celebrate this important day by traveling to Phor Kark See Temple and witness a candlelit procession through the city as devotees pray for peace and blessings. Another interesting place to try is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum; Located in Chinatown, the temple is perfect to visit after sampling delicious local dishes at the adjoining Chinatown Food Center.


Haven’t decided what you’ll be doing for the weekend?
Take a look at our Things to Do section!

Cassilda Lee

Cassilda constantly dreams of desserts (or anything really sweet), but when she’s not, she loves watching movies and hanging out with friends. Travel and fashion are also big loves, so she constantly reads them and looks forward to the next adventure!