Saga Dawa is basically Buddha’s birthday. It’s when people pay homage to Buddha, by turning prayer wheels, chanting Buddhist scriptures attentively, and showing compassion. Think of Christmas, with an Eastern bent.
Tibetans say it’s the day when Shakyamuni was born, enlightened and achieved nirvana. Talk about a lucky day. On this day, people dress in their holiday best, sing and dance, and hold family or community get-togethers.
It also is called “the festival to set free captive animals” because throughout the entire month, monks and laymen don’t eat meat or slaughter animals. And if you can, you let some animals go, or lighten their burdens.
If you’re interested in joining the festivities, eat an apple and pick up a copy of
An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life (2002) or How to See Yourself as You Really Are(2007), both by HH the Dalai Lama.