All about Buddha's Birthday!
In the last post I made, I called the day Buddhamas. Christ’s birthday is Christmas after all. Hmm, well Buddha’s name wasn’t Buddha, it was Siddhartha Gautama. I guess Buddha then was his rank, and his last name was Gautama. So Merry Gautamamas! In Korean, this day is called 부처님 오신 날 (Bucheonim osin nal). It means “The day Buddha came.” This holiday is not uniquely Korean, it is an important day for all Mahayana Buddhists. As such, it is celebrated in China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Thailand, and any other country with a large Buddhist presence, but it is not a national holiday in all of them. In Korea, fortunately, it is a national holiday. Not since Rosh Hashana in elementary school have I been so happy to embrace a holiday from another religion that I don’t belong to.
So, you’re not a Buddhist?
No, I am not. I don’t really think it’s against my religion to celebrate Buddha’s birthday however. Perhaps it is my own unfamiliarity with Buddhism that makes me believe so, but as far as my own understanding, Buddhism is a philosophy, not a theistic religion. It would therefore be possible for someone to accept Buddhist philosophy, yet still be a Jew, a Muslim or a Christian. In the U.S. we have national holidays on the birthdays of political leaders, such as the birthday of George Washington or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and religious people don’t complain about the nation treating the birth of these people equally to that of Jesus Christ, because they aren’t deities. Siddhartha Gautama is also not a deity.
When is Buddha’s birthday?
It’s on April 8th of the..
April 8th? It’s already May! You Liar!
Let me finish, it’s on April 8th of the Lunar calendar. All old Korean holidays, such as the New Year, Chuseok, and sometimes peoples’ birthdays are made according to the Lunar calendar. Modern holidays such as independence day or national foundation day are made according to the Solar calendar that most of the world is familiar with. This is the reason that a lot of people in Korea don’t even know what month and day the most important holidays (or EVEN THEIR OWN BIRTHDAYS) are. Anyway this year’s Lunar April 8th is Solar Mary 21st.
I actually can’t answer this with any authority, as I am not a Buddhist, and most Korean Buddhists that I have met are only Buddhists because their parents are, not because they are actually familiar with the religion. But from what I gather, there is a lot of decoration that goes on, such as hanging an incomprehensible number of lanterns in temples, and lining the largest streets with more lanterns.
Buddhist temples also give free food to all visitors on this day. There’s also a pretty neat parade, that I’ve never had the opportunity to attend, but found a video for.
You can be certain that I will write about every Korean holiday when I get the chance. For now, Merry Gautamas!