Visak Bochea – វិសាខបូជា – day (called Bon Visakh Bochea in the Khmer language), it is the Birthday of Buddha and falls on the 15th day of the waxing moon in the 6th lunar month – which is usually May in the Gregorian calendar. A candle procession takes place in evening at this day, and those who have seen it are never able to forget. People visit the temples early in the morning to offer food and sweets to the monks and listen attentively to the preaching of the religious figures.

Visak Bochea: Festive procession on the birthday of Buddha

Visak Bochea Day – វិសាខបូជា – (or Buddha Day) is the holiest holiday of the Buddhist year. The day commemorates the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Siddharta Gautama Shakyamuni Buddha (his full name). Early in the morning, people visit the temples and offer food and sweets to the monks. Afterwards, they listen attentively to the monks as they pray.

TIP: If you are in Cambodia at a different time, take a look at the overview of public holidays here at Visit Angkor. Plan your trip so that you are in Cambodia on one of the Buddhist holidays.

The procession of candles and torchlight begins at dusk, circling the main shrine three times. People in the luminous procession carry flowers and light incense sticks to pray for Buddha and his final rest. The mothers meditate and follow the sermons of Buddha.

Some of the sons become priests themselves during the Visak Bochea festivities to pay homage to their parents and ancestors.

  • 2024: May 22
  • 2025: May 12

During these days, a torchlight procession takes place at the twilight and the main shrine is circumambulated three times.

People in the luminous procession carry flowers and light up incense sticks praying silent rest to Buddha. Following the preaching of Lord Buddha, the mothers meditate. Also during the Visak Bochea, some of their sons become priest with the intend to repay their parents and their ancestor in the future.

Interesting facts about Visak Bochea

  • On Visak Bochea, the Buddhist Khmer celebrate three major events in the life of the Buddha: his birth, his enlightenment and his death on the full moon of the 6th lunar month (May). With these events, Visak Bochea is the most important festival in the Buddhist lunar calendar.
  • There is a Buddhist flag, a more recent creation, but it is already used worldwide. The colors of the flag are based on the colors of the aura believed to have shone around Buddha’s head after his enlightenment: Blue (Compassion), Yellow (Middle Way), Red (Blessing), White (Purity) and Orange (Wisdom).
  • Many Buddhists regard Visak Bochea as a festival of joy. People use the time to get together, take refuge in Buddha and learn more about his teachings. People bring food, candles and flowers to the monks.
  • The Khmer people decorate their houses and streets with Buddhist flags and flowers.
  • As soon as it is dark, people gather around statues of the Buddha and walk around them with candles.
  • The candles are a symbol that Buddha showed people how to find enlightenment in his time.
  • Other common rituals at Visak Bochea include bathing a Buddha statue, sharing vegetarian dishes and listening to the monks’ teachings. The monks chant the scriptures, lead meditations and pass on Buddha’s teachings to the faithful.

MORE: Exactly 3 months to the day before Visak Bochea, there is Meak Bochea, a day commemorating Buddha’s last speech. This day is also one of the most important holidays in Buddhist Cambodia and is celebrated.

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