The idea of Buddhists celebrating Christmas might seem like a strange idea. Why should they? After all this festival has little to do with them. On the other hand, there can be some very good reasons for some of us to continue celebrating Christmas even though we don’t belong to that particular religion anymore.
Should Buddhists celebrate Christmas?
Should Buddhists celebrate Christmas? This is a question that often crosses my mind at this time of year. It is not just something that I ponder as an intellectual exercise, but more because I have a son whose life will be impacted by my decision. I am philosophically a Buddhist, and my wife is a religious Buddhist. My son will be able to decide on his religion when he is old enough, but until then most of his influences will be Buddhist (especially as we live in country where over 95% of the population are Buddhist).
I am originally from Ireland, and have always loved Christmas. I stopped viewing myself as a Christian in my early teens, but I still continued to celebrate that day. This might seem odd to some people, but my view is that it is still a part of my culture. In fact we had a festival at this time of year long before the Christians arrived on the scene. If you look at many of the traditions surrounding Christmas (such as ivy, the Christmas tree, and present giving) you will find that many of these were already part of European winter festivals – they have nothing really to do with Christianity. So in a way there is probably enough within the festival that is non-Christian as there is Christian.
Please don’t get me wrong here, I am not trying to downplay in any way the association of Christmas and Christians; after all, the name is a big giveaway. I am just saying that seems acceptable for people from other religions and agnostic Buddhists like me to also celebrate this time of year. I like many things about this special day; I want my son to appreciate the excitement of it all. If he ever asks me questions about the story behind the Christian idea of Christmas then I’ll do my best to answer the question as openly and honestly as I can. I want him to be open to all religions and to choose the one that best suits him when the time is right. If he wants to be an atheist then that will have to be OK too.
I personally see no contradiction with Buddhist celebrating Christmas; or indeed people of no faith celebrating it. These festivals can be a time to remember some important ideas like the joy of giving and hope for the future. Christmas is not really celebrated in Thailand; although each year the big department stores and supermarkets are doing all they can to change this. We will be celebrating it in our home though, and my son will be able to enjoy it if we make trips back to Ireland at this time of year in the future.
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