I get a lot of folks asking me, “How can you celebrate Christmas when you are a Buddhist?”
Ever since I can remember, Christmas hasn’t been a religious holiday. Growing up, I was not religious at all. My parents never made us go to church. We did go on occasion, but that was mainly when my brothers and I were curious or bored enough to want to get out of our house and hang out with our friends, at church
We knew what Christmas was supposed to be about, but it was never about that with us. Christmas was the opportunity to gather with friends and family and celebrate our oneness with each other. Our goals were all the same, to make others happy and to see the smiling faces of the youngsters as they opened gifts.
We used to get the neighborhood folks together and go round caroling. We did this not only for our own happiness, because we all loved to do it, but if you saw the smiles we got from people it was as if we had given the the greatest gift. It was a simple gift, didn’t cost a thing, but made an impact.
There has always been a sense of magic this time of year, the belief that if we lived by a certain code we would be rewarded. While that is not a very Buddhist idea, a reward is the last thing we are looking for, but for a child it is everything.
So, how can I celebrate this holiday as a Buddhist? I just summed it up I think, instilling a sense of community and happiness, but let me throw this into the mix. One of the staples of Buddhist practice is compassion and putting others before ourselves.
This year in particular, as with many other people, things are tight. My wife and I have foregone exchanging gifts. The money is just not there this year. But, it really doesn’t matter to us. To be able to do something for someone else is more important.
My wife has been busy baking, while time consuming, it’s not as costly and who doesn’t enjoy a plate of fresh baked, home-made cookies and treats? Simple things like this can have more of an impact on someone’s sense of happiness than that big ticket item, they know that someone put forth the effort to make the cookies with their hands. My wife is phenomenal at baking too, so those that do receive the cookies are in for a real treat.
But I digress, back to the topic at hand. Buddhist or not, Muslim or not, Christian or not, it does not matter. Religion has nothing to do with compassion and happiness. So that’s how I can celebrate this holiday, because to me it’s not about the story of a birth in a manger, it about love and togetherness.
And while there is the burdening overtones of materialism intertwined with the holidays, not making it about ourselves, but about others, is the most important thing to me.
Its a simple post, but it’s boiled down enough that you can see where I’m coming from this time of year. I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. May your days be filled with warmth, love and happiness.