Do Buddhists celebrate Christmas?
Do Buddhists celebrate Christmas? Good question!
With the holiday season approaching, many people have started to wonder if and how Buddhists celebrate Christmas.
That's a good question, and we fully understand the confusion since Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus as the human incarnation of God and Buddhists do not believe in God , the birth of Christ should therefore be of very little importance.
Buddhists faces Christmas
Surprisingly, many Buddhists celebrate Christmas. Buddhists believe that Christ's teachings not only complement those of the Buddha, but that Jesus is a " bodhisattva " , c that is, someone who gives up his own benefit to help others and who has compassion, kindness and love for all beings.
For these reasons, many Buddhists see Jesus and his reincarnation as a blessing to the earth and have no problem celebrating his birth. It differs from Christian belief because Buddhists recognize Jesus as a man and a master, but not the Messiah.
Buddha and Jesus
Buddhists also have their own holiday on December 8 , which celebrates the day Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree .
This holiday, "Bodhi Day", is celebrated by eating cookies (preferably heart-shaped - which corresponds to fig leaves, or Bodhi, tree) and rice, drinking milk and decorating trees bright lights.
In Asia, Buddhists decorate fig trees, but because the western climate can be harsh and these trees cannot survive, many Western Buddhists decorate evergreen trees instead. Buddhists decorate these trees with multicolored lights which represent the many different paths to reach enlightenment.
The feast of Buddha Shakyamuni, the rites
Some Buddhists also observe the thirty days after Bodhi Day by offering small gifts to loved ones, such as small totems or acts of kindness, but they make a point of never giving violent gifts. , such as toys in the shape of swords or guns, their religion promoting compassion and not conflict.
Similarities between Bodhi Day and Christmas (sweet food, decorations, trees, gifts, as well as general goodwill and kindness to all) and similar teachings of Jesus and Buddha make it easy for Buddhists to recognize and celebrate the Christian holiday without compromising their faith or causing conflict between religions.
Becoming a Buddhist, testimony of a convert
We interviewed a newcomer to Buddhist philosophy to find out how he felt about this festival that he did not know:
This was my first year celebrating Bodhi Day, and I had a lot of fun doing it! I brought cookies to work and shared them with my colleagues; after work my girlfriend and I shared some milk and cookies and then we decorated my apartment together. I didn't have a tree, but she brought lights that we hung up for the evening. We didn't exchange material gifts, but we did have some quality time together, which is a gift in itself.
Christmas Eve for a Buddhist
Some people also asked us about Christmas supper and what the Buddhist community can and cannot eat
Preservation of life being one of the fundamental beliefs of Buddhist monasteries, many believe that Buddhists consider all meat to be prohibited, but this is not always the case. Each branch of Buddhism sees the idea of "preservation of life" differently, and some do not follow vegetarianism at all.
Eat meat or not?
A general consensus in all branches of Buddhist practice is that an animal cannot be killed specifically to be eaten - like killing a deer in the woods in order to eat it more late.
Some Buddhists then believe that this means that meat can be eaten as long as it is killed for the general consumption of all people, and not just themselves, for example during a Christmas supper where there is has a lot of people who eat together.
It is also forgivable for a Buddhist to consume meat that was killed for them, if they do not know that it was killed for them before eating it.
What meats to eat? Buddha's opinion
Buddha left some Buddhist precepts on what kind of meat is forbidden , this includes: human meat, elephant meat, horse meat, dog meat and snake meat but also lion meat , tigers, panthers, bears and hyenas. None of these meats are typical of Christmas meats (at least in the secular western world!) So they do not conflict with Buddhists eating Christmas supper.
It is also common for Christians to say grace before supper to be grateful to God and to give thanks for their food. Buddhist monks also perform their own version of grace before eating, but instead they thank the animals for giving their lives and thank the person who provided them with food and the deities of the Buddhist temples.
What do Buddhists think of Santa Claus?
Buddhists have no problem with the idea of Santa Claus, because Santa Claus is based on the inspired acts of Saint Nicholas . Saint Nicholas was a humble man who helped bring joy to the lives of children through his acts of selflessness and compassion, which are two of the core beliefs of Buddhism.
The image of the laughing Buddha by the way is often described as the equivalent of Santa Claus for Buddhists, are big belly and his smile symbolizing the joy of life and wealth.
Statue of Buddha , a perfect Christmas present!
Many Westerners adore the soothing and spiritual Zen meditation atmosphere of Buddhist Dharma without necessarily following the Buddhist path and its rituals preached by the Dalai Lama in Tibetan temples.
It is therefore common to find a statue of Buddha s at the foot of the fir tree in our homes to recreate a monastic atmosphere , Asian and specific to the practice of Zen.
We have listed the most popular Buddhist statues below to make sure you are happy for the holidays!