(RNS) — The White House will host its third-annual Vesak ceremony on Friday (May 5), continuing the administration’s tradition of celebrating the holiday that commemorates Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment.
President Joe Biden became the first president in U.S. history to organize a formal celebration of Vesak at the White House in May of 2021, when leaders from three major Buddhist traditions — Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana — gathered alongside Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff for the ceremony, which features candle lighting and the presentation of flowers.
According to a White House official, this year’s ceremony, which coincides with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, will feature similar representation. Emhoff is also once again slated to participate and offer remarks, and Biden is expected to release a statement regarding the event, which is hosted in partnership with the International Buddhist Association of America.
However, while previous iterations of the White House Vesak ceremony were kept small due to pandemic restrictions, this year participants will include an array of ambassadors and representatives from the embassies of Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The official told Religion News Service that White House staff “for whom this holiday is meaningful” will also participate in the event, which will take place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The official said that in hosting the event, the White House hopes others celebrating Vesak across the country will know “that the White House sees, hears and values them on their sacred holiday.”