Where ever Buddhism goes, it picks up the customs and bits of the culture from the country it arrives in. So perhaps we should find incorporate Buddhism with some of our winter holiday customs? Of course the compassion of the season fits right in with Buddhism as does rampant materialism (it does, right?). And of course Buddhism is not alone in incorporating celebrations. After all the Christian celebration of Christmas was incorporated with the Roman celebration of Saturnalia and also Soltice customs. And Jeebus' Birfday, of course.
December 8 is Bodhi Day, by some Buddhist traditions. This day honors the enlightment of Siddhartha Gautama. Bodhi Day would be a good way to integrate the winter holidays with Buddhism. Here are some suggestions for integrating our customs with Buddhism:
* String multicolored lights around your home. These lights represent enlightenment.That they are multicolored represents the many pathways all of which are valid. Turn on the lights each evening starting on December 8 and for 30days after. Your neighbors will simply think they are Christmas lights and would never guess that you are a complete heathen.
* Light a candle everynight to symbolize enlightenment. And to cover up the smell of your litter boxes. What are you doing with four cats anyway?
* The Bo tree (ficus religiousa) is the tree under which the Buddha sat. Buy a potted live ficus tree for your home (a ficus benjamina will do if you can't find a ficus religiousa) decorate this tree with lights, strings of beads representing how all things are united, and three shiny bulbs representing the three jewels of Buddhism. Yes, a ficus tree. The tree favored by malls everywhere.
* Sujata offered The Buddha milk and rice which helped him to regain his strength so that he could become enlightened. A breakfast of milk and rice would be a way to start Bodhi day with mindfulness. Or Rice Krispies® . Or Rice Krispies® Treats!
* Make Bo tree cookies or Bo leaf cookies - the leaves are heart shaped so you can use a heart shaped cookie cutter and ice them green. And when people ask, "Why green hearts?" you can say they are Vulcan hearts in celebration of the 11th Star Trek movie coming out next summer.
So how am I celebrating Bodhi Day? I am going over to a friend's house to watch UFC on Spike TV! We will all eat Rice Krispies® Treats and watch fighters beat each other down as The Buddha beat down Mara, the evil one, who tried to tempt him away from his virtuous path!
That's a stretch, isn't it?