1. Religion & Spirituality
Barbara O'Brien

What Do You Do About Christmas?

By December 15, 2009

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Last year I asked readers what they did about Christmas -- ignore? go all out? minimalize? -- and got some interesting answers. So I'll ask again -- what do you do about Christmas?

I'm a minimalist myself, mostly because going all out is too draining. My housemate, Miss Lucy, feels the same way, although being a cat she will take a fleeting interest in ribbons.

Blogger Jack Daw reports that he received a Jizo Bodhisattva card from a Pure Land church. So what's more Christmas-y -- grumpy Bodhidharma in a Santa hat or the Bodhisattva of the Hell Realm? Maybe we could put Pu-tai in a reindeer sleigh.

Credit: Bodhidharma (without Santa hat) by floating ink / flickr.com; Creative Commons License

Comments
December 15, 2009 at 7:44 pm
(1) Jack says:

Actually, the Jizo card was pasted onto a generic holiday card. It was from my brother in law that, I assume, popped into a Pure Land Buddhist Church in Philly to find something “Buddhisty” to send to us out here is South Dakota.

But I love that he attempted to meld my beliefs and outlooks with those of the Holidays.

As a general comment to those trying to engage with loved one practice…that is a great way of doing it. No Buddhist convert expects you to be Buddhist or to change your family traditions and we won’t try to change what has become a, hopefully, wonderful family atmophere.

Try to engage in a way that is comfortable and not condescending. You don’t need to go all out….small things are the best. When I “came out” of the Buddhist closet, I gave my Dad a book comparing the teaching of Buddha and Jesus. Now I am one to see both the differences as well as the similarities but I knew that this would be the easiest way for him to understand the Dharma and why I was making the conversion.

Good stuff. Prayer Flags on the Christmas tree, time set aside for practicing loved ones to meditate (or practice whatever faith), Jizo or Hotei as a Wreath decoration.

Its all good.

Cheers,

John (Jack Daw)

December 16, 2009 at 6:39 am
(2) donnachadh says:

I can’t see why Christmas should pose a particular problem for Buddhists. Does Buddhism have a problem with Santa and his elves?

December 16, 2009 at 10:21 am
(3) Pete R. says:

I enjoy the tree, the lights, sending cards and so forth. No reason not to enjoy the activites since for me it is not a religious holiday, just a solstice celebration.

December 16, 2009 at 12:34 pm
(4) David says:

If I may respectfully add the perspective of a Jewish Buddhist–it is indeed true that elves, Santa, Christmas trees and the like are not particularly religious in themselves and can go with anything, including celebrating the solstice, including Buddhism. The tree is pagan in any case, and I knew a minister who refused to have one in his church for that very reason. However, the religious meaning of Christmas–the day that the son of God entered the world in the flesh–still lies not far behind all these secular practices. It is for that reason that many, probably most Jews do not have Christmas trees, and presumably Muslims don’t either. I say this because I can see why a Buddhist of Christian origins might have qualms about celebrating Christmas even at the level of Santa and elves. While today the celebration is, for many, a lovely way to banish the winter darkness, nevertheless the day was put there in the first place because of this very religious, very theistic reason. As the fundamentalists never tire of saying, “Christ is the reason for the season.” So I can see both why a Buddhist might want to celebrate Christmas, and why one might choose not to. I think that there is an issue to be considered.

December 16, 2009 at 4:49 pm
(5) Mumon says:

Try to have a Buddhist Christmas. It’s always been a holiday appropriated by somebody, so why not us? Why can’t we not use it to appreciate each other?

December 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm
(6) Kendall says:

Looking back at last year’s comments I still feel the same way as I commented then. I’ll head to my family’s place and help them celebrate, but won’t really do the gifts or decorations part, just the family part.

December 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm
(7) Cuong says:

I do have a problem with santa claus. It’s stupid. The ho ho ho stuff is disgusting.

December 17, 2009 at 6:39 pm
(8) connie says:

I reckon any day’s good for remembering the perfection of giving!
best wishes,
connie

December 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm
(9) JoeBuddha says:

I always enjoyed Christmas. The original celebration of the returning of the Sun fits well with the Buddhist idea of hope and looking to the future; not to mention the spirit of giving and good will.

December 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm
(10) pema says:

on many levels I agree with David. Knowing the origin and meaning of Christmas, I am reluctant to become involved during this season. It seems as if by calling it a secular holiday, we justify it. For observant Christians it is celebrating the birth of Christ. Christmas means Christs mass, why as someone who has adopted Buddhism would I be celebrating Christs Mass. The secular way seems to be to make religious holiday’s appealing to others of differenet faiths. Perhap’s there are some Muslims, Jews, Hindu’s, etc. who celebrate Christmas as just the event that happens at the end of the year. I find it a bit creepy and overbearing. I respect Christianity and other religions, but don’t understand why the celebration should be …no problem. I don’t celebrate other religions celebrations unless asked to by a close friend who is a practitioner, then I am just an invitee or observing some ritual as a loved one. I don’t go to church on Sunday’s, don’t answer the call to prayer on Friday’s, and don’t observe Jewish rites, but Christmas is not to be a problem. For me it seems as if the more I adopt and become comfortable with celebrating Christianity, the more it will become a way of life. I am not Christian and as a Buddhist practitioner, I can enjoy the warm heartedness and excitement of the season that my Christian friends have, but it is not as carefree and no big deal as it seems. At least to me, it isn’t. It isn’t observed by other religions for a specific reason. To say that we can enjoy appreciate each other is odd. Don’t Buddhists do that everyday of the year?

This holiday has annoyed me since I was 7 years old, and I am 58 now. I am not grumpy in anyway, but just can’t get all syched-up about celebrating Jesus Christ as wonderful as he is claimed to be. Is Thailand. Nepal, Tibet, China, native Americans, Somoa, tribal Africans all welcoming Santa Claus. It is something that really creates a lot of questions for me. Often feel anal, fundamentalist, close-minded and non-buddhist ( we passively accept everything or we haven’t understood). Not beating myself up about this< no reason to be be celebrating the life of Jesus Christ. No matter how secular it is portrayed if you neeed proof of something otherwise, go to a church at 12 p.m. on Christmas eve. It is not going to the experience of some late night hang-out, it will be about the life and celebration of Christ and the meaning of the 25 of December. Pagan origins noted, but this is the adopted rite for certain practitioners, and I am not one of them.

December 18, 2009 at 2:43 am
(11) Rajeev G says:

Hi Barbara,

I participate in the joy and sorrows of others in whatever belief system they are in. I do not even tell I am a Buddhist until and unless asked like, why you are not drinking Alcoholic beverages? why can’t you have some non-veg dish etc leads to comments like, my belief do not allow me to do so….then mostly will think that I am a Hindu since I am born to that “abstract religion”. I fully participate in Hindu celebrations as well…..all these I do for other’s happiness if they think I am being there makes them happy. (I try to be totally mindful whatever I do and wherever I am).

Some issues are some times such get-togethers leads to some preaching of “Buddhism” to groups…I try to avoid that also as much as possible…..not to bother them with my Dhamma beliefs. I am just a “Lay” Dhamma follower…no big claims

December 19, 2009 at 11:34 am
(12) Sean Robsville says:

Yuletide was originally pagan (the English Puritans tried to suppress it), but was appropriated by the Christians as Christianity spread through Europe.

Now that Buddhism is spreading through Europe…

December 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm
(13) Susana says:

I do nothing, I’m a buddhist, not a christian, born ana raised, but not anymore; and as David said, most of the traditions are of pagan origin, and the date may not be accurate, emperor Constantin set it because romans already celebrated the “sol invictus” festivity, and in these days is more a commercial celebration; buy, buy, buy, give, give, give, expect a gift, and if not got it, be disappointed, all is just attachment, and attachment is the origin of dukka. I would like to know what would Jesus said abaout how his birthday is celebrated. And only a third of the worl is christian. And why don’t you ask us how we celebrate ramadan or hanukka? are those festivities less important than christmas? For the practitioners of their respective religions, I don’t thik so.
I respect other religions traditions and celebrations, but don’t celebrate them because they are not my own, it would be pretend, led me go in the stream of the commercial frenzy of the season.
And the family and friends and love issue, are not we buddhists (and hopefully not buddhists) supposed to practice love and compassion for all sentient beens all year around?

December 22, 2009 at 7:12 pm
(14) athene says:

I rarely discuss religion in my workplace, but always at this time of year people ask me “what are you doing for the holidays”, my manager always assumes that any distraction we experience is because of the Holidays”. For me it isn’t the holidays, I haven’t celebrate them for as long as I can remember. I am a dharma practitioner and usually have no referential knowledge of what people say about the day. I am aware that 25 Dec. is a special day for some people, but it really confuses me when elves, reindeer show up and fat guys leave gifts under a chopped down tree, and I am supposed to get excited about that. I have spent years planting trees on my property and chopping one down, is the highlight ?
Can’t imagine why others who practice in another faith would find this embrace of Christianity…no problem. Curious, why is it only the Christian celebration that is aggressively pushed as secular and for everyone. When it’s a celebration of Shiva, or Rama, I have never heard anyone say. lighten-up, it’s only a holiday, nor do I hear this during Jewish celebrations. During Ramadan I am only asked to be sensitive to my friends practice committments ( I don’t have brunches or lunches and invite them, out of respect). They also don’t have animals killed because I am coming to a meal.

December 29, 2009 at 9:33 pm
(15) Doubtfuldahma says:

My family is Christian. So, I look at it as gift giving day and go around giving things. I say Merry Christmas because most people around me are Christian. I celebrate their celebration.

December 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm
(16) Hunt4life says:

Peace, love, compassion, goodwill toward all men… what’s not to participate in?

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