Buddhists have commemorated the Full-moon day of the Wesak month as a centuries-old tradition after the passing-away of the Buddha. It was only in March 1885 that this day was declared an official holiday in Sri Lanka by the British governor, Sir Arthur Gordon. The first Wesak full-moon holiday fell on April 28, 1885. This declaration was made possible due to the sustained effort and persistency of Colonel H. S. Olcott, a visionary American Buddhist.
Malaysia has been observing Wesak as a public holiday since 1962, in recognition of Buddhism being the religion with the second largest following in this country. In year 2000, Wesak Day was recognised by the United Nations as the official Buddhist holiday internationally. Although celebrations differ around the world, it centres around the Enlightenment of the Buddha and performing meritorious deeds. Many devotees spend at least the entire day at a monastery or Buddhist centre to listen to teachings, meditate, chant the scriptures, and provide voluntary services.