Buddhism: Theravāda

Key Dates and Events

Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

Māgha Pūjā

(Varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. Typically in February to March)

Māgha Pūjā, also known as Saṅgha Day or Fourfold Assembly, is a Theravādin Buddhist holiday observed on the first full moon day of March. The day commemorates a time in Buddhist history when 1,250 fully enlightened monastics spontaneously came together to offer their respects to the Buddha. It is a festival to honour the Saṅgha and a chance for people to renew their commitment to Buddhism.

Buddhist New Year 

(Varies each year depending on the Buddhist tradition. Usually in January or April)

Buddhist New Year celebrates the start of the new year in the Buddhist calendar. Countries that follow the Theravāda tradition of Buddhism celebrate the event for three days, from the first full moon in April.


(Varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. Typically in May)

The day of Vesākha (known as Vaiśākha in Sanskrit) is a Buddhist event that commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. The date varies by region and tradition, but is usually celebrated on the first full moon in May. Followers of Buddhism may visit temples to listen to sermons by monks and participate in chanting and meditation. In some Mahāyāna traditions, it is common for temples or celebrations to have a statue of baby Buddha in a water basin decorated with flowers, so visitors can pour water over the statue, symbolising new beginnings.

Asalha Pūjā

(Varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. Typically in July)

Asalha Pūjā, also known as Asanha Pūjā, Asarnha Bucha or Dhamma Day, is a Buddhist festival that commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon after his enlightenment and the founding of the Buddha’s Saṅgha. It is also the day that marks the beginning of the Vassa season. On this day, Buddhist followers usually make donations to temples, listen to sermons and chant the sacred scriptures recounting the events of the Buddha’s first sermon.


(Varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. Typically from July  to September)

Vassa is a three-month-long annual retreat observed by Theravāda Buddhist monastics. The event takes place during the wet season of South and Southeast Asia. Monastics typically remain in one place and participate in intensive meditation. Some members of the may also participate by abstaining from meat and intoxicants. Many lay Buddhists will also offer food, candles and other necessities to monastics. The first and last day of Vassa is commemorated with Asalha Pūjā and Pavāraṇā.


(Varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. Typically in October or November)

Pavarāṇa is a Theravādin Buddhist event that commemorates the end of Vassa, the three-month period of intensive meditation and practice. Pavarāṇa is a ceremony for the monastics to ask forgiveness of and ask for feedback or admonishment from their fellow Saṅgha members with regard to any behaviours that may have been unwholesome.


(Varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. Typically in August)

Ulambana, also known as Ancestor Day, is a popular cultural Buddhist event. It is believed that on this day, the gates of the Hell Realm are opened and ghosts may visit the human realm for fifteen days. People usually visit cemeteries of their ancestors’ remains and make offerings. Some will also make offerings to the Buddha and monks to help accumulate good merit.

Bodhi Day

(Varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. Typically in December or January)

Bodhi Day is a popular cultural Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day the historical Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama) gained enlightenment. The day is typically observed in quiet nature, with people usually participating in meditation or chanting. Informal practices may include decorating a bodhi tree. Theravāda Buddhists will usually celebrate the concept of this event during Vesākha, whereas Mahāyāna Buddhists typically celebrate this date separately, around December or January depending on the lunar cycle.


(Multiple times a year)

Uposatha is a Buddhist day of observance that occurs four times a month. Each day of observance is dependent on the lunar cycle: new moon, eight days after the new moon, full moon, and eight days after the full moon. On these days, both lay and monastics intensify their practices of gift-giving, meditation, veneration and recitation.

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