"It’s like snow on Christmas Day, honey," Fahim says.
Of course I laughed.
So*, what’s Vesak and what’s the big deal?
Vesak is a Poya Day, which for Buddhists is a religious holiday, a full moon day. Every full moon day is a Poya Day and a day off in this predominantly Buddhist country. And every Poya day in the year has a different name, with different festivals and slightly different ways of celebrating.
Vesak is one of the big ones, and that also means that there are paper (modern era means plastic, too, though) lanterns strung up everywhere. Vesak also means food stalls where Buddhists give away food.
Fahim tells me that he knows people (granted, many years ago, but still) who would go to every stall in the neighborhood and gorge on the food. Fahim also tells me that the food isn’t very good – it’s mass-produced, and the people making it really don’t care about quality. After all, they’re doing it for karmic merit more so than anything else.
Part of the whole food stall business is that it’s also a business in a way. Those who operate the food stalls get donations for this purpose, knowing full well that any excess money or food supplies will go into their pocket, and they budget and plan with this in mind.
So much for merit.
Fahim also tells me that it can be a really bad day to travel (or good, depending on your perspective). Years ago, he’d take the bus, and it would stop every couple of hundred feet or so, and people would give the passengers food or drink. Makes for very slow travel.
So what’s the big deal with Vesak? In Buddhist tradition, it celebrates his birth, enlightenment, and death.
The reason for the original comment? Because, he says, it always rains on Vesak. Why does it always rain on Vesak? Because all the Buddhists believe that it will.