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Vesak: How Buddha's Birthday Is Celebrated Around The World (PHOTOS)

Posted: 05/05/2012 8:50 am Updated: 05/05/2012 9:10 am

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  • Indonesia

    Buddhist followers lighting candles at Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 6, 2012 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the Borobudur temple annually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. Vesak is observed during the full moon in May or June and the ceremony centers around three Buddhist temples, whereby pilgrims walk from Mendut to Pawon, ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesian

    Buddhist followers join the procession from Mendut temple to Borobudur temple during celebrate Vesak Day, commonly known as 'Buddha's birthday', at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 6, 2012 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the Borobudur temple annually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. Vesak is observed during the full moon in May or June and the ceremony centers around three Buddhist temples, whereby pilgrims walk from Mendut to Pawon, ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    MAGELANG, INDONESIA - MAY 06: Buddhists walk around the Borobudur temple while carrying canldes during Vesak Day, commonly known as 'Buddha's birthday', at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 6, 2012 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the Borobudur temple annually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. Vesak is observed during the full moon in May or June and the ceremony centers around three Buddhist temples, whereby pilgrims walk from Mendut to Pawon, ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Singapore

    A Buddhist monk leads devotees during a procession toward a temple on the eve of Vesak Day in Singapore on May 4,2012. Vesak day is the major Buddhist festival of the year as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha on the one day, the first full moon day in May. (MOHD FYROL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Taiwan

    People pray and pour water on models of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, childhood of Buddha, on Buddha's Birthday in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, April 28, 2012. Buddha's Birthday is celebrated in East Asia on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

  • South Korea

    A worker attaches name tags of Buddhist devotees who donated lanterns ahead of the birthday celebration of Buddha, which falls on May 28, at the Chogye temple in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, April 30, 2012. About one-third of South Korea's 48 million people are Buddhists. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

  • South Korea

    A South Korean worker attaches a name card with a wish of Buddhist followers to a lotus lantern at Chogye Temple in Seoul on May 8, 2011 ahead of celebrations marking Buddha's birthday in the country. Buddha was born approximately 2,555 years ago, and although the exact date is unknown, Buddha's official birthday is celebrated on the full moon in May in South Korea, which is on May 10 this year. (PARK JI-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • South Korea

    South Korean Buddhist followers pray under rows of lotus lanterns during a service to celebrate the 2,555th birthday of Buddha at Jogye temple in Seoul on May 10, 2011. Buddhism is one of South Korea's largest and most active religions with millions of followers. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • South Korea

    A South Korean Buddhist holds a lantern on the street followers prepare for Buddha's birthday with a parade in the streets of Seoul on May 8, 2011. Buddha was born approximately 2,555 years ago, and although the exact date is unknown, Buddha's official birthday is celebrated on the full moon in May in South Korea, which is on May 10 this year. (PARK JI-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    A Buddhist monk releases a lantern into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 28, 2010 in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Annually, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Buddhist followers releases a lantern into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17, 2011 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Buddhist followers releases a lantern into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17, 2011 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Indonesian muslim woman with Buddhist followers releases a lantern into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17, 2011 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Chinese dragon dance is seen as join the procession from Mendut temple to Borobudur temple on Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17, 2011 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    A view of Borobudur temple is illuminated as buddhist monks walked around the Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17, 2011 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Buddhist followers lighting candles at Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 17, 2011 in Magelang, Indonesia. Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument anually, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Taiwan

    A mother assists her child to wash a statue of baby Buddha on Taiwan's national Buddha's birthday in Taipei, Taiwan, Sunday, May 8, 2011. Buddhists in Taiwan celebrate his birthday by using fragrant water to bathe statues of Buddha. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

  • South Korea

    Shaven-headed young boys wearing 3-D glasses touch smart phones at SK Telecom Ubiquitous Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 9, 2011. A group of children entered a temple, the main temple of Korean Buddhism's Chogye Order, to experience a monk's life for a month to celebrate Buddha's birthday on May 10.(AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

  • South Korea

    South Korean Buddhists carry lanterns during a lantern festival to celebrate the birthday of Buddha, which falls on May 10, at the Chogye temple in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, May 8, 2011.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

  • South Korea

    South Korean Buddhists carry a huge dragon lantern during a lantern festival to celebrate the upcoming birthday of Buddha on May 10, on a street in Seoul, Saturday, May 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

  • South Korea

    South Korean Buddhists carry lanterns during a lantern festival to celebrate the upcoming birthday of Buddha on May 10, on a street in Seoul, Saturday, May 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon).

  • South Korea

    Buddhist believers hold lanterns to celebrate the upcoming birthday of Buddha on May 10, in front of Seoul's City Hall, in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

  • Indonesia

    Buddhist monks release lanterns into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 28, 2010 in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Annually, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Buddhist followers release lantern into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 28, 2010 in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Annually, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Buddhist monks release lanterns into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 28, 2010 in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Annually, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. It is observed during the full moon in May or June, with the ceremony centred at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his passing (Parinirvana). (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • South Korea

    Young South Korean Buddhist devotees pray under rows of lotus lanterns at the Chogye Temple in Seoul on May 1, 2009 one day ahead of the Buddha's birthday. A group of nine children is staying at the temple to learn about Buddhism for 18 days ahead of celebrations for Buddha's birthday on May 2. ( JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Indonesia

    Hundreds of lanterns are illuminated for the Buddhist meditation on Borobudur Temple on Vesak Day, commonly known as "Buddha's birthday," at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 9, 2009 in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. Annually, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, which makes it the most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. During the full moon in May or June, the commemoration is observed with the ceremony centered at three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur. The stages of life of Buddhism's founder, Gautama Buddha, which are celebrated at Vesak are his birth, enlightenment to Nirvana, and his Parinirvana or passing. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

  • Sri Lanka

    A lit lantern carrying the image of Buddha is seen on Vesak day in Colombo on May 8, 2009. Wesak, the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar, is commemorated to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. (LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

What do you get for the man who has attained perfect enlightenment? That depends on where in the world you are celebrating.

Buddha's birthday, known as Vesak Day (or Wesak), is celebrated on various dates in the spring throughout the world, and each Buddhist culture has its own traditions for the day. It is usually observed during the first full moon in May.

Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's three most important life stages on Vesak: Birth, Enlightenment and Death, which traditionally are said to all have happened on the same day of the calendar throughout his life. The birth story is important because the Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, while his mother stood holding onto a tree. Once born he is said to have taken seven steps forward after which a lotus flower arose from each footstep. He then declared that this was his last rebirth and that he would become an enlightened individual.

In South Korea, followers light lotus lanterns that cover the temples in remembrance of these lotus footsteps. In Sri Lanka, where colorful lanterns are also used, elaborate electric light displays depict different stories from the Buddha's life. In Indonesia, Buddhists light and release lanterns into the air while visiting the Borobudur temple. In Taiwan, followers pour fragrant water over Buddha statues to symbolizing a fresh start in life. In Singapore, devotees set caged birds free on the Buddha's birthday.

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