Today, October 2, 2020, marks the end of Buddhist Lent, called Awk Phansa, in Thailand.
However, many foreigners don’t understand exactly what this means besides a mandatory alcohol sales ban that closes bars and entertainment venues and prohibits sales of alcohol at any store or restaurant for 24 hours.
Awk Phansa marks the end of a three month period of Lent in which Buddhist monks stay at their temple for reflection, to study the Buddhist scriptures and prayer and do not travel. It is also called the rains retreat as it falls within the rainy season.
Traditionally, it marks the day the Buddha, in Buddhist beliefs, returned from the second level of heaven after a three month stay where he preached the higher doctrine to his mother and other celestial beings.
After this day, monks are free to once again move and travel freely and leave their temple of residence where they have spent the past three months.
The day is marked by various rituals including giving merit, prayer, listening to lectures and other religious ceremonies. The day also traditionally contains the act of Pavarana which allows monks to make resolutions and seek forgiveness for any offenses made during Lent.
Temples traditionally hold temple fairs and other events and are full of believers showing respect and making merit. Some areas hold colorful displays and parades of candles and lights. And, yes, in Thailand it means an alcohol sales ban.
Have a great end of Buddhist Lent Thailand!