Winner is "Vesak Day" written by Nuthara Karunarathna.
Nuthara lives in Sri Lanka and is a learner at Lyceum International School in Panadura. Below you will find Nuthara's award-winning essay called 'Vesak Day'. Here she will tell you how she celebrates the holiday with her family and what makes this day so special.
We sit before the altar at home and quietly chant our prayers in a soft song. The little Buddha statuette in the center looks down kindly on us, and a basket of fresh flowers sit before the statuette. Incense wafts over to us from the joss sticks stuck into the pot of sand. Before the altar, a clay lamp burns with a single bright flame.
A symbol of joy, of light, deliverance and peace. Later in the night, we will go out, my parents and sister and I, and walk through the streets admiring the houses lit with hundreds of paper lanterns and tiny lights and the candles hanging from the trees. We will smile in recognition when we see the Buddhist flag – red, yellow, blue, orange and white – hanging beside every gate. We will mingle with the throng that fills the streets tonight, and it will not be dark in any corner because everybody is celebrating this holy day, and proclaiming our joy with light and decoration.
This is our holy day, which we call Vesak, the day in which our Bodhisattva prince was born and when he attained enlightenment and became the Lord Buddha. This is the full moon day in which He passed away after preaching his doctrine to the world. This is the day when our savior was born into this world, and we celebrate with everlasting joy. People will stop us on the streets; smiling, welcoming people offering us a drink, or sweets, or a packet of rice or sweet potato, and we accept them because we know that they are not doing this for money, or gratitude, but out of the kindness of their hearts.
I love Vesak for this, because it makes people kind, and brings out the best in us. We will go to the temple, resplendent in colored lights and fresh garlands of flowers. We will worship the monk and take his blessing for the new year that dawns today. We will smile and kneel before the huge compassionate statue of our Lord Buddha and murmur a prayer for good health and happiness.
We will light a lamp in the courtyard before we go, a single flame to burn throughout the night and light the way for others. And there will be no shut doors today, no houses in the dark.
We are a country of many religions, but we all choose to celebrate together. And if I see a Catholic man helping his neighbor hang lights on his roof or a Hindu family admiring the pandols, I will not be surprised, but I will be glad.
Perhaps my family and I will push our way through the crowded streets to see the huge pandol in the square, a forty-foot tall construction of colored lights that shift and change, telling a story of Lord Buddha, and we will stand there looking up at the swathes of multicolored light lighting up even the dark night. And I will stand there in awe at what this day has done, for there are thousands of people looking up at the beauty of this, and all of us harbor the same joy in our hearts. Today, our religion brings us together.
Anything else you would like to tell us?
Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world, and it is followed in many Asian countries. By writing this I hope to share my experiences with the rest of the world and allow them to share in Vesak, which is our most important festival of the year.
In the Age category 12 -15 years, Nuthara is winning for the second year! This time she shares with us her insights into one of the big world religions, and we all can learn from her beautiful story about 'Vesak Day'. We are very grateful for this skilfully composed essay. Well done, Nuthara! Congratulations!