Most Buddhists observe the birthday of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (circa 560-480 BC) in May, although the dates vary according to ethnic tradition and scheduling convenience. Also called the Wesak festival, and commemorating the Buddha’s enlightenment as well, it is often celebrated on dates closest to the full moon. Japanese Buddhists observe the holiday in April, but some of their clergy take part in the pan-Buddhist observances in May.

TRADITION: Siddhartha Gautama, son of a wealthy member of the Sakya clan, was said to have been born at Lumbini near the present border of India and Nepal. Protected in his youth from suffering, the young prince later saw the troubling side of life and left his family to seek the right spiritual path, eventually becoming a Buddha, or “Enlightened One.”

OBSERVANCES: A joint Los Angeles-area celebration will be held today at Wat Thai Temple in North Hollywood, starting at 9:30 a.m. Candles, flowers and incense are offered and the baby Buddha is ritually bathed in a service reflecting the legend of the religious founder’s birth. Thai, Sri Lankan, Cambodian and Laotian monks will pay homage to the Buddha and then Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan and Anglo-American monks will take part in chanting. A seminar on clergy-laity relationships, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., will feature talks by Sri Lankan Abbot Walpola Piyananda and the Rev. Masao Kodani of Senshin Buddhist Church.