new year
Lanterns are hung in a Chinese temple ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2014. Reuters/Samsul Said

In case you missed the switch from 2015 to 2016, not to worry. The New Year for many Buddhists falls Sunday, so you have a second chance.

The date marks the first full moon in January, and although not all Buddhists celebrate the New Year the same day, the holiday is recognized by Mahayana Buddhists in China, Vietnam and South Korea. That New Year is not to be confused, however, with the better-known Lunar New Year in some East Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, that falls on Feb. 8.

Not unlike New Year's celebrations in the West, it's a time for happiness and festivities. In some countries, the occasion is celebrated with just one day of festivities, whereas others dedicate three days to it. Each country has its own traditions, but there are a few widely followed traditions.

A man burns incense as he prays in a small temple in the village of Wukan in Lufeng county, Guangdong province of China, in 2011. Reuters/David Gray

New Year celebrations hold religious significance, and generally commence with prayers and ritual. Worshippers light candles in temples and monasteries to show respect for the Buddha. People often bathe Buddha statues and pray for happiness and peace in the year ahead, and sing songs of praise for various deities.

“Every moment holds the potential for awakening, every moment in every circumstance,” Arnie Kozak, a writer on Buddhism, wrote on BeliefNet. "Intention makes the difference. So, make your intentions for the New Year. Open to the sheer beauty and possibility of this moment."

People are also encouraged to contemplate the year behind them and to set goals for the year ahead. They often buy new clothes, clean and decorate their homes and visit relatives and friends to wish them a happy year ahead.

Not all Buddhists, however, celebrate the New Year at the same time. In Theravadin countries, the holiday is marked by three days of celebration in April. Theravada is one of the two major traditions in Buddhism, and is practiced in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. As in other Buddhist countries, people often clean their homes, visit temples and exchange gifts and greetings with family members and friends.

Buddhism originated in northern India in the sixth century BCE. Around 350 million people identify as Buddhist, and it is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.