Culture - May 19, 2019 | 01:00 am PT

Thousands of lanterns floated in canal as Saigon celebrates Buddhist festival

More than 5,000 paper lanterns carrying ‘wishes’ were released into a major canal in Saigon to mark the Buddhist Vesak festival. 

On Saturday night, long lines of devout Buddhists could be seen around Phap Hoa Pagoda in District 3 for the lantern releasing ceremony to pray for peace on the occasion of the most important festival in the Buddhist calendar, which marks the Buddha’s birth.

It falls on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month, or May 19 this year. 

Phap Hoa’s chief monk, Thich Quang Minh, said this year 6,000 people came to the pagoda for the ritual. 

The faithful arrived several hours in advance and wrote their names, ages and wishes on a piece of paper to be released along with the lanterns. 

At 7 p.m. they started releasing the lanterns in the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal.

A little girl hugs her father’s head as they stand in the crowd holding lanterns in front of the pagoda gate. 

Monks and nuns from the pagoda made 5,000 lanterns for this festival and distributed them for free.

Vietnam is a predominantly Buddhist nation. It is estimated that over 70 percent of the population are either Buddhist or follow Buddhist practices.

Lotus-shaped lanterns glow bright in the canal. Legend has it that when the Buddha was born he walked seven steps forward, and at each a lotus flower blossomed under his feet.

People stand along the canal to watch the lanterns glowing in the night.

A family rents a boat to float the lanterns.

Photos by Thanh Nguyen