(If you have submitted a question, please be patient, I’m starting to get backlogged. Keep sending them in, but be patient, I’ll answer them all as soon as possible.)
I’ve been listening to the podcast since summertime, and I guess I am a new Buddhist. What do I do about celebrating Christmas? Is that allowed?
Christians have Christmas, Jews have Hanukkah, people of African descent have Kwanzaa and others celebrate the Solstice or the New Year. Everybody has a holiday to celebrate except Buddhists, who don’t get a December holiday.
There’s nothing scriptural about this problem that I ever heard of, so it’s pretty much just a matter of judgment. Here’s my situation: I’ve been a Buddhist for more than a decade, and I’ve put up a Christmas tree and bought and received presents every single year. I go with my niece and nephew to see Santa Claus, and recently went to see them both in their Christmas Pageant. It was a very well-done Christmas Pageant, I hasten to add. I play Christmas music on the radio, at least until I can’t take it anymore, and never fail to watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on TV. Last year, in Japan, I even dressed up and played Santa (link to that story) for one of the Kindergartens in Hiroshima (see picture of “Santa-Brian”).
I don’t focus much on the all the “Baby Jesus” stuff, but I’m not one to get offended either. I realize that the majority of Americans are Christian, and I’m not about to deny anyone their choices. Fortunately, my extended family is not particularly religious, so it’s not really a big issue at the big family party. I do all my traditional Christmas stuff, and I keep right on doing my regular Buddhist stuff as well.
Again, there is no “official answer” on this, just my opinion, but it seems to me that if you have been raised with traditions that you are used to and comfortable with, stick with them. Changing is only going to cause needless suffering, and doing what you have come to love is a good thing.
Much of the holiday season is based on helping others, caring for the poor, donating to charities, goodwill towards men, peace on Earth, and these are great Buddhist concepts. Materialism and greed, going into debt, drinking parties, family fights, well… not so much.
Remember the five precepts, and don’t do anything that is going to cause any suffering this holiday season. Be mindful of what you are doing, but other than that, enjoy yourself!
I would assume my readers have plenty of opinions on this subject, as well as stories about how they deal with the holidays. Please post them in the comment section below!