Vesak is my favourtie holiday in Sri Lanka. I love the lights. I love the energy. I love the free food. But I could do without the epic Buddhist musical montage looping next door. I feel as though I'm in a video game.
Vesak is my favourtie holiday in Sri Lanka. I love the lights. I love the energy. I love the free food. But I could do without the epic Buddhist musical montage looping next door. I feel as though I’m trapped in a video game.

Vesak is a Buddhist holiday that celebrates the Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment all of which happened on full moon days. The most special of these full moon (poya) days happens in May. Vesak is celebrated in many Buddhist countries. In Colombo, it means the following  :

  • a three day weekend (Friday off)
  • the government recommending that employers give an extra day of holidays on Thursday so people can prepare for Vesak
  • no alcohol or meat for sale
  • fantastic light displays and lanterns
  • a huge influx of people from the countryside to Colombo, which means I get even more stares and strange comments
  • gaggles of young men walking through the streets arm in arm
  • people are actually out well after dark
  • dansalas offering everything from tea to ice cream to rice and curry for free (if you are willing to line up)
  • annoying noise makers
  • strange Halloween like masks and horror houses (this is a commercialized attempt to make money out of the holiday)
  • even stranger conversations such as this one my friend Thomas and I had with a food vendor

Sri Lankan Food Vendor (SLFV): Where are you from?

Thomas: West Africa (He’s really a Londoner, but his family is from Sierra Leone. Because he is black this just confuses everyone so he says West Africa to cut to the chase.)

SLFV: Ghana is very bad.

Thomas: Oh?? . . . .

SLFV: I was ripped off by a black man in Singapore. Lost 32,000 USD.

Thomas: (not knowing what to say) That sucks.

SLFV: (to me) Where are you from?

Me: Canada.

SLFV: (smiling) Canada is a very good country. People are very friendly. I like it very much. I tried to get into Canada but they would not grant me a visa. Do you think you can help me?

Me: It’s not quite that simple.

SLFV: What to do? You know these days I have diabetes. I used to have biceps that were 19 inches. Now I’m just fat.

Me: Uh-huh. . .

* * *

Without further ado, here are some pictures so that you can get into the Vesak spirit wherever you are in the world.

Trina

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