This week will see Thailand’s predominantly Buddhist population mark Makha Bucha Day. The annual religious festival celebrates the day 2,500 years ago on which Lord Buddha elevated 1,250 converts to Arhantas Enlightened Ones status. Makha Bucha Day falls on the 1 March in 2018, but is not the same day every year as it depends on the cycles of the moon.
For many Buddhists in Thailand, Makha Bucha Day kicks off with a trip to local temples to listen to monks’ sermons and give them donations of food, sweets and toiletries. Makha Bucha is a day of abstinence and people often cut out alcohol and other vices. The custom of holding Wien Tien candlelight walks around the grounds is practiced at some temples including several in Chiang Mai.
On the day now honoured by Makha Bucha, Buddha taught the basics of modern Buddhism. These are to be good, not do evil things and to maintain purity of mind. Makha Bucha is timed to coincide with the full moon of the traditional lunar calendar’s third month.