Bodhi Day celebrates the day the “Historic Buddha”, aka Siddhartha Gautama, Sakyamuni Buddha, achieved enlightenment.
There are very many accounts of Bodhi Day, about as many as there are Buddhist sects. The historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, a coddled Prince, was shielded from the unpleasant side of the reality of the world; sickness, poverty, death. Until one day, he went out into the kingdom and saw these suffering people, ill, impoverished, grieving, or even dead.
This shocked Prince Siddhartha and he ran away from his coddled life to find its true meaning.
For years he studied under one master then another. He couldn’t find what he didn’t know he was looking for. At one point he is near death, emaciated from an ascetic lifestyle, materially bankrupt, emotionally bankrupt. He rests under a large tree, which will be known as the “Bodhi Tree”.
He sat there in meditation for days and on the morning of the 8th Day of the 12th moon of the year, Siddhartha Gautama awoke from his meditation, staring at the rising Morning Star, Venus. Enlightened. And he could “see”. We suffer because we cling to things, all of which are temporary in this constantly changing world. If we don’t cling, we don’t suffer.
These realizations became the Four Noble Truths. Siddhartha Gautama was now fully awake. He was now The Buddha, The Teacher.
This day is what we call Bodhi Day. Parts of the world celebrates on a standardized date of December 8, the 8th day of the 12th month of the year. However, Bodhi Day is actually the 8th day of the 12th moon of the lunar year. Like Easter, that day changes year to year.