Understanding Buddhist Christmas (Alan Peto)
Highlights from the article by Alan Peto --
As Christmas approaches we are delighted to wonderful decorations, beautiful lights, great presents, and, for Buddhists in America and other western countries, the inevitable question "So do you celebrate Christmas?" The question always brings a smile to my face as I answer, "of course!" But how can a non-Christian celebrate Christmas?
Like most American Buddhists I wasn't born into a Buddhist household. My family was of the Christian/Catholic background so we always had a Christmas tree and knew of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. The smells of freshly cut pine trees, alluring multi-colored lights, decorations, and (oh!) those presents, were just icing on the cake.
So do I celebrate Christmas? As a Buddhist, I celebrate Christmas in non-Christian way.
Christ, the Bodhisattva
If you ask most Buddhists what they think of Jesus Christ, you may be surprised to hear some very positive and supportive opinions. Read those here.
The Buddha Tree
Do Buddhists have a Christmas Tree? Well, we may have decorated pine trees in our homes, but it may or may not have anything to do with Christmas.
- Most people are not aware that things such as the 'Christmas Tree' were actually a pagan tradition during the winder solstice, which no Christian wanted to adopt at first (in fact, it was banned). . . Christmas Day (December 25th) was actually during the very popular pagan winter solstice (the 25th was the 'return of the sun'). It's still unknown when Christ was actually born and this date was decided since there was already an established celebration...
- A popular Buddhist holiday, Bodhi Day, is celebrated in December as well (and goes on for 30 days) to celebrate Buddha's enlightenment. Those multi-colored lights you use for your Christmas tree are also used during this celebration on ficus trees, although many Western Buddhists may have an artificial pine tree (Christmas tree) they can use for the same purpose.
- Having a "Christmas Tree" is quite acceptable with Western Buddhists, and some may even one because some of their family members may be Christians, Catholics, etc. Buddhism is acccepting of other religions so this wouldn't bother us at all. My Christmas tree still has my mom's angel from the 1960's at the top every year.
Wrapping Up A Buddha
When it comes to gift giving Buddhists look to St. Nicholas, aka. "Santa Claus", as someone who resembles our values. Read more here.
"But Wait. Don't you worship to your 'God,' Buddha?"
Not at all. The historical Buddha is not a God, but instead our respected teacher and above all a human being. Read more here.
What Does a Buddhist "Do" on Christmas?
I have an entire article about five things a Buddhist can do on Christmas. Basically, a Buddhist can continue their practice of being compassionate, caring, thoughtful, mindful, and respectful of others. I not only take this time to take part in the traditional Christmas activities, but also to ensure I connect, understand, and embrace the many different religious activities that occur this time of year. The stories and examples of peace and love to all are a shining light of how we should all be with each other.
Thank you for reading and Merry Christmas!
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