Buddhist Holidays

NOTE: Holidays are observed at CBT on the 3rd Sunday during the month of the holiday.

Shu-sho-e (New Year’s Day Service) / January 1
Join us in bringing in the New Year with a renewed appreciation for the spiritual guidance of the Three Treasures (the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha).


Ne-han-e (Nirvana Day) / February 15
Ne-han-e is the annual memorial service of Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism who died at 80 years of age. After his death, his disciples gathered from all directions and divided his cremated remains into eight parts. They enshrined these parts in stupas in order to preserve the memory of the Buddha.


Over the centuries, the ashes were divided and re-divided many times. The stupa at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco enshrines a small portion of the Buddha’s remains that was donated to the Buddhist Churches of America in 1935 by the King of Siam (now Thailand).


Note: Japanese Buddhists and Mahayana Buddhists, in general, observe Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth (see Hanamatsuri), Enlightenment (see Bodhi Day) and death on three separate dates. The Theravada tradition observes all three events as having occurred in the first full moon date of the fifth month, a major holiday known as Wesak or Visakha.


Shun-ki Higan-e (Spring Equinox) / mid-March

Higan-e is a service held twice a year, at the spring and fall equinox. The equinox is when the weather is mild, not too hot and not too cold, and when nature is in harmony. Thus it is a time for reflection and meditation on this harmony in one’s own spiritual life.

Higan is a word that means “the other shore” of Enlightenment. The Higan season should be used to reflect on the path of understanding the Six Paramitas (Perfections).


The Six Paramitas are:
•          Dana (giving)
•          Sila (behavior or discipline)
•          Kisanti (patience)
•          Virya (endeavor)
•          Dhyana (meditation), and
•          Prajna (wisdom)

Hanamatsuri (Birthday of the Shakyamuni Buddha) / April 8


Hanamatsuri celebrates the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Shakyamuni Buddha, in Lumbini Garden. This holiday is commonly known as Hanamatsuri, or Flower Festival.


It is also called Kan-bustu-e, or Bathe the Buddha gathering, because at this observance, a statue of the baby Buddha stands in a flower-covered shrine in a shallow bowl filled with sweet tea. Participants at this service come up to the shrine and, using a small ladle, pour some of the sweet tea on top of the small statue.


Go-tan-e (Birthday of Shinran Shonin) / May 21

Go-tan-e celebrates the birth of Matsuwakamaro Hino, who became a monk at the age of 9 after the death of both of his parents. He went on to become known as Shinran Shonin and his descendants went on to found the Shin Buddhist (Hongwanji) sect.

Obon and Hatsu-bon / mid-July

There is not a recognized translation of the word Obon. “Bon” is part of the sound of the Japanese pronunciation of the Ulambana Sutra, and “O” is the Japanese honorific placed in front of important words. In the Ulambana Sutra, a disciple of the Buddha, Mogallana danced with joy after understanding the true meaning of Compassion. Obon is also known as Kangi-e, which means “gathering joy” in Japanese.

Over the centuries, a festival became included with the Obon Service. The festival included local folk music and dance (Obon Odori) in which a town or village or temple would dance in memory of their ancestors.

Hatsu-bon or First Obon, is important for families who have lost a loved one in the previous year. This observance would be the first Obon since the passing, and the Obon Odori is a way of expressing gratitude for the benefits our loved ones have already shared with us. The Hatsu-bon is also a physical expression of both the grieving and the joy of spiritual understanding.

Shun-ki Higan-e (Fall Equinox) / mid-Septemeber
See Shun-ki Higan-e (Spring Equinox), above.


Ho-on-ko (Memorial honoring Shinran Shonin) / mid-November
Ho-on-ko is the annual memorial service for Shinran Shonin, the founder of the Shin Buddhist tradition. This service expresses our gratitude to Shinran for showing the Path of the Wisdom and Compassion that is Amida Buddha.


The observance began after Shinran’s daughter, Kakushin-ni, carried on the administration of Shinran’s mausoleum, as did her descendants, who ultimately became the Monshu of the Hongwanji sect.

The Monshu in Jodo ShinshuBuddhism is the guardian of Shinran‘s mausoleum, as well as the head of the sect. As of June 2014, the current and 25th Monshu of the Nishi Hongwanji temple is His Eminence Sennyo Shōnin (Ōtani Kōjun, born 1977.  He succeeded his father Sokunyo Shonin (Otani Koshin, born 1945).

Ho-on-ko is the principal holiday in which one participates in the art of “hearing the Light” through listening to Dharma talks, having discussions, participating in rituals and sharing the Sangha fellowship.

In the Nishi Hongwanji tradition, Ho-on-ko is observed on January 16th.  However, following a local tradition, CBT observed this holiday in November. 

Eitaikyo (Perpetual Memorial Service) / mid-November
This memorial service pays tribute to all our predecessors. We honor the known, the unknown and members of the Sangha who have contributed to the growth and development of the temple.

Jodo-e (Bodhi Day) / December 8
Bodhi Day celebrates the day that Siddhartha Gautama discovered Enlightenment and became Shakyamuni Buddha.  By his example, Siddhartha showed us that it was possible for a human to become a Buddha, a Perfectly Enlightened One. This is the first day of the Buddhist religion.

Joya-e (New Year’s Eve Service) / December 31
Join us for a short service, after which we take turns striking the kansho bell outside the hondo 108 times to complete the old year and ring in a fresh New Year. Then enjoy a traditional meal of buckwheat noodles, which symbolize longevity.

Some content courtesy of Midwest Buddhist Temple

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