Try Something New: Vesak Day-Inspired Activities For the Whole Family

Staying at home could be a good opportunity to count your blessings.
Vesak Day, one of the most sacred days in the Buddhist calendar, is celebrated on 7 May in Singapore this year. Buddhism is a faith that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (“the Buddha”) more than 2,500 years ago in India. Millions of Buddhists around the world spend this day of reflection by meditating, praying and doing good. 
As temple visits have been suspended this year and elaborate ceremonies are put on hold, learn about Vesak Day and its significance, while picking up new skills both you and your family will enjoy. Not only are these activities fun to do, they will also bring more mindfulness into everyday life.

1. Reflect and meditate 

Spending a few minutes meditating can restore your inner peace.
Meditation is one of the most important practices in Buddhism as it brings peace to the self and develops one’s clarity in thought. Beyond religion, meditation is widely used for benefits such as reducing stress, improving sleep, reducing negative emotions and helping one gain a new perspective in times of crisis.
So why not pick up meditation this Vesak Day with seasoned practitioners by joining guided mindfulness breathing and meditation sessions hosted by Singapore’s Buddhist Fellowship? For those who prefer greater flexibility and variety, choose from paid apps like Buddhify which offer 80 guided meditations ranging in length from four to 30 minutes. If you’re not ready to invest, a free-to-use app like Headspace will guide you through the basics. Both apps offer various practices for mindfulness and well-being that can be used to enhance various aspects of your daily life. 
If technology is too much of a distraction, challenge yourself to a digital detox and practice deep breathing instead. Also another stress-relieving hack, learning to breathe properly can enhance your immune system and correct posture. Practice this simple breathing technique for five minutes: Sit up right, inhale for four counts and exhale for four counts. 
If you prefer writing, pick up a notebook and pen for a journaling session and reflect on three things you are grateful for. Believe it or not, regular gratitude practice to give thanks to the moments, people, and things one values has been proven to increase happiness, improve relationships, and increase your appreciation for the simple things in life.

2. Learn about universal values with your family 

Engage your child’s creativity with activities using a mandala. 
If you have children and would like to nurture positive character traits but find it hard to compete with Nintendo games, smartphones and ipads, fun apps and YouTube videos that teach children about universal values are available to keep them entertained. 
Another multisensorial way to introduce children to Buddhist concepts is through craft activities such as colouring or drawing a mandala — a circular image which represents the universe in Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Make it three-dimensional by using a circular plate as the canvas and gather colourful items, like hairpins or beads, you can find at home for your child to create the mandala design. If they are up for a cognitive challenge, leverage on this craft session to introduce them to mathematical concepts such as radial symmetry. 
Afterwards, play a game of “Radial Symmetry Hunt” and get your kids to search for items in the house that have the same radial symmetry. (Hint: Radial symmetry is a pattern commonly seen in objects of nature, like flowers and fruits.)

3. Enjoy a hearty and healthy vegetarian meal 

Prepare a simple and symbolic breakfast using staples like milk and rice.
Going vegetarian is one way of celebrating Vesak Day. Devotees do this to remind themselves to do no harm and cherish the lives of animals like they do their own. If you would like to try a traditional dish, prepare a simple rice-milk pudding for breakfast by simply cooking rice in milk. Sweeten the dish naturally with honey, dates or raisins, and spice things up by cooking it with cinnamon and cardamom. Add nuts for a bit of crunch. 
A modern take on this recipe would be Breakfast Chia Seed Pudding. Simply add a tablespoon of Chia seeds and one cup of milk into a small jar, stir and store in your fridge overnight. The next morning you will find a delicious pudding-like texture. Now add some honey, berries, seeds and cinnamon on top and you’ve got a well-balanced and nutritious breakfast.
For the rest of the day, you can consider vegetarian takeaway options like Jinjja Chicken’s Tofu Burger made with a crispy tofu patty marinated in sweet soy garlic sauce, The Soup Spoon+’s Velvety Mushroom Stroganoff and Meatless Minestrone, or, Pezzo’s Veggie pizza which is topped with onions, mushrooms, green peppers, sweet pineapples and diced tomatoes.  
Jinjja Chicken is located at Northpoint City, North Wing and The Soup Spoon+ is located at Northpoint City, South Wing. Available for takeaway on Frasers Makan Master.
Pezzo is located at Northpoint City, South Wing and Waterway Point. Available for takeaway and delivery on Frasers Makan Master.
Get your ingredients for Breakfast Chia Seed Pudding and Rice Milk at Cold Storage located at Causeway Point, Northpoint City, North Wing and The Centrepoint; Fairprice Finest located at Changi City Point and Waterway Point; or NTUC FairPrice located at Eastpoint Mall, Northpoint City, South Wing and YewTee Point.

4. Do a good deed

Simple acts of kindness can do a lot for those in need.
Showing compassion is an essential part of Vesak Day celebrations. Devotees typically spend this Public Holiday performing charitable deeds. While individuals may find fewer volunteering opportunities this year due to the Circuit Breaker measures, it is still possible to donate to meaningful causes. 
These days, you can make cash donations virtually to a charity of your choice on Browse through the wide range of causes and choose one that resonates with you. You may find it useful to know that donations to charities with a “TDR” icon on their profiles are tax-deductible. 
If you would like to donate non-perishable food items instead, drop them off at Food Bank Singapore’s warehouse (218 Pandan Loop, XPACE, S128408). Open Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm; avoid delivery between 1pm-2pm. Attention items to Jessie or Audrey (9855 4805).⠀

5. Celebrate nature

Celebrate life’s beginnings by sowing a seed.
Start a herb garden on a holiday of new beginnings so your children can see the magic of life as it grows. Fresh herbs also enhance the flavour of your dishes! So start by looking for a spot in your house with indirect sunlight. Sun-loving herbs thrive in places like corridors, but there are also herbs that do well in shaded areas like your living room. Of course, planting them near your kitchen window will make it easier to snip off the herbs while you’re cooking. 
To start your herb garden, pick a pot that fits your space and has drainage holes. Alternatively, you can reuse empty plastic containers like soda bottles to hold your plants — 1.5-litre bottles are ideal as they are wide enough to hold your plant and have room for it to grow. Once you’ve chosen your bottle, rinse it clear of its contents, and let it dry. Next, take off the label, cut the bottle in half or about one-third of the way from the neck and puncture four to six holes on the bottom for drainage. Finally, grab some potting soil — which is available at supermarkets, and place it in your pot. Choose simple-to-grow herbs such as parsley, mint and basil if you’re new to this, and don’t forget to water the plants regularly!

6. Decorate your home with lotus flowers

Get your family involved in the ancient practice of paper folding and reap its benefits.
The festive atmosphere of Vesak Day is typically created through the adornment of lotus flowers and candles in homes and temples. To Buddhists, these items carry symbolic meanings — the lotus flower is a symbol of purity and rebirth while candles represent the light of Buddha’s teachings. 
Create this atmosphere at home, and make an activity out of it that the whole family can enjoy. Learn to fold simple origami water lily lotus flowers here, using pages from magazines you find around the house. Once you’ve got the hang of it, get everyone involved, including the young and the old as there are mental and physical health benefits that come with paper folding. The ancient art of paper folding is sometimes used in present-day art therapy and in stroke and injury rehabilitation. It also develops hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and mental concentration. 
With such an enriching variety of Vesak Day-inspired activities to try, we hope that you will give them a go with your family. Not only will you gain valuable insight about yourself, you will also discover that spending time at home can be relaxing, entertaining and enlightening all at the same time. Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a Vesak Day full of peace, love and joy.