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Thread: Christmas

  1. #1

    Christmas

    The last couple of years as I have been leaving my teenage years and moving into adulthood I have become more and more disillusioned with Christmas. It's insanity. And this year is worse than ever. It's no longer Happy Christmas, but Happy Business.

    This year the inevitable talks of what to get each other for Christmas have come and I couldn't help to express my distaste at the stupidity of it (baring in mind this started at the beginning of November). I'm not a Christmas scrooge, I love getting together with my family, have a laugh and play some homemade games. I don't celibrate Chistmas in the religious sense, but I think it's a great opportunity to do the things mentioned above, whatever day it's called. It's buying all the presents that's rediculous.

    From the start I said to everyone who asked that I don't want anyone to buy me anything and I won't be buying anything for other people. This has mostly brought really strange looks, like I'm some weirdo, yet I can't understand why. My Grandma said she will give me some money instead then, I said no get me nothing. From the looks I have got, it's like other people see the senselessness of it too, but they've done it for so many years it's as if they're incapable of thinking about these things in a clear way and how much suffering it causes to themselves and others. Chistmas is just one example of limitless other similar things of which we are prone to and which causes needless suffering in our everyday lives.

    I also saw a trailer for a film called 'What Would Jesus Buy', I'd like to see this, but I think it's only going to be shown in select places in the US.

    I know none of this is a question as such and I have difficulty explaining in a clear way what I really mean. How do others deal with Christmas each year?

    Bah-humbug!!

  2. #2
    Hello Ten!

    Ya know, I am quite happy that Christmas is just calles "Weihnachten" in my native tongue German, which translates as "sacred/blessed/holy nights". Even before the cult of the Nazarene managed to make its way to those rainy,muddy and unattractive lands that the Romans later called Germania, the time surrounding the midwinter solstice was one where (out of necessity) people would stay inside a lot. What do you do when you stay inside a lot and it's terribly cold outside? You tell stories, eat loads and enjoy each other's company. It's the time of the year where I can feel the presence of my ancestors in a most intimate way (not in a seance kind of way neccessarily ), and can focus on the emotionally charged moment right before me. Giving gifts to my loved ones and to enjoy their enjoyment is a truly good way to see that there is no difference between giver, gift and receiver of the gift.

    To place the day of Jesus' birth on the same date as the Birth of the roman "Sol Invictus" was a very intelligent decision by the constantine church really. The natural symbolism of the Sun returning is just too strong to ignore. A great time for looking at the "bottom lines" of the previous year and for making new decisions.

    To cut my story short, no number of coca-cola trucks can destroy the fact that I will enjoy this particular time of the year in the same way my ancestors have for generations and generations. If your own intention is pure, what outside factors could ever desroy it?

    Waes thu Hael to all of you,

    Hans

  3. #3
    Ten,



    I do share some of your feelings about this. I'd opt out of Christmas, if it was not for my family. Since Christmas, is a Christian holiday, and I am no Christian I have no desire to celebrate it. But, will go along not to rock the boat. Certain elements such as time with family, enjoying a special meal are nice.

    I suppose the gift giving can be okay if its kept within moderation, but for most people I think it becomes just another source of suffering and debt. I'm keeping my present budget low and telling others to do so as well.

    take care,

    Greg

  4. #4
    Really? I sort of dig it.
    I personally find a great deal of Zen-type thought in the insane nonsense of Christmas.
    Think about it. To celebrate the supposed birth of the literal incarnation of God on Earth, we place trees in our homes and decorate them gaudily. All the while, we sing songs about flying reindeer with luminescent noses, and talking people dancing around made of snow.
    If you don't see all sorts of Koans in this stuff, you're not trying!!
    All the while, our children pay homage to an enormously obese, smiling and bearded Hotei in a red suit who's the embodiment of love, prosperity and generosity, yet other than the attitude he represents has nothing whatsoever to do with the celebrated birth of the child in the desert that all these people say they worship... even just once a year.
    And above all, it's one time a year where irrational generosity and unbridled compassion are a completely accepted part of our societies' collective conscience.
    Let the retailers and price gougers deal with their own Karma. And to the rest, I say, "Merry Christmas!"

  5. #5
    I'm kind of with Karl and Greg on this one. My spiritual practice is that of a Buddhist, but my entire upbringing, family, and culture are Christian. So, like it or not, culturally I am a Christian. I therefore celebrate it the same way I do other cultural holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween, etc. I enjoy the Christmas season in spite of it not being a celebration of divine birth for me. I enjoy Mexican food even even though I'm not Mexican, I like sushi even though I'm not Japanese, and I like Christmas even though I don't buy into all of those beliefs.
    I'm thinking of putting up the family Christmas tree on Dec. 8th each year so that from here on we will have a "Rohatsu Tree" but I guess I'm the only one in the family that would call it that.

    Bill

  6. #6
    I have observed that people stress and make poor financial decisions during the holiday seasons. However, Ten, you're a young guy, getting started and all that...TAKE THE MONEY . Your grandmother will feel better, you can give it back when you have grandchildren, and you'll have some money.

  7. #7
    Thanks KvonNJ, that was amusing and an interesting outlook.

    Hello 10,

    I believe my sentiments closely parallel your own. In fact just yesterday (after a couple hours in a crowded mall seeing all kinds of cheep no-name electronics being scooped up with furry) I expressed interest in next year doing exactly what your doing this year; not participating in the gift exchange. The problem I have about this idea is twofold. First, I have many family members who take great delight in giving (so do I), but they enjoy giving to extreme degrees. My mother–in-law will regularly spend a couple hundred dollars on me despite my requests restrain herself! Haha. I suspect that even if I did attempt to get out of the gift exchange next year, I would still get copious amounts of presents anyways, only I would look silly for giving none in return.

    This brings me to be second problem, I fear that refraining from giving gifts would be offensive to others, like I was cheep or a scrooge. I like giving, but I know that so long as I give I am ‘fair game’ to receive far more stuff than I require. But I feel like my attempts to limit what others get me every year is interpreted only as superficial modesty. And perhaps the only way I could make myself clear is by abstaining from the gift exchange.

    My girlfriend keeps telling me that her family spends so much on me because they want to, not because they feel they have to. It brings them joy. My response is by asking “Why does it bring them joy”, to which the reply is always “Because they want to see you happy”. I conclude by stating “But if overspending on me irritates me, then how are they making me happy?” This logic never works.

    My idea of perfect Christmas is this. Getting together with family (much of which I only see at Christmas), having a couple nice meals with them, then sitting back with a drink and socializing. My prefect Christmas would still have a gift exchange Christmas morning, but it would be one practical gift per person to each other person. Keep it simple and sweet.

    What have I become where I complain about receiving too much at Christmas?! Zen has made me a monster! Haha

    Cheers, and Gassho,
    KElly

  8. #8
    I think I got a bit carried away in my first post that I completely missed out something I was meant to add in. My Mum and my Auntie's side of the family have agreed not to buy anything for each other this Christmas and instead we're getting together a few days after Christmas to do some murder mystery thing, have a meal and dress up in our yet to be decided themes and roles. Although I'm having much more difficulty with other members of the family, I've had some success.

    I said it once and I'll say it again, I'm really not a Christmas scrooge. It's the whole commercial side of it that I hate, especially once you see what goes on as far as profits, targets and exploitation is concerned. I like decorating the house up, it's wonderful, although I used to sell Christmas trees and seeing what goes on behind the scenes as mentioned it has put me off slightly. There is nothing I need. I know I will still receive things this Christmas, despite what I say and I will feel bad about not giving anything in return, but then if giving is the spirit of Christmas then you shouldn't expect anything in return. Also, I do buy things for close members of my family throughout the year, I also give away my posessions on ocassions too to others that wants them (sometimes without much choice in the matter :P). Why not make everyday Christmas? Why be restricted to do these things at certain times of year, as and when companies and the social norm dictates.

  9. #9
    I just want to add that we celebrate ALL holidays here. A HAPPY FIRST ADVENT this Sunday to our friends in Sweden!!!

    Yes, no difference between giver, gift and receiver of the gift. It is important to give something that has real meaning, of course (the best present is the homemade card my son makes with construction paper and glue, then gives with a hug). Nothing wrong with making grandparents happy either ... of course, you could always accept the cash and donate it to a charity for the needy (if you have no real need for it yourself).

    Just some thoughts.

    Gassho and Ho Ho Ho, Jundo

    PS - I also just discovered that today is International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Yes, let us keep that in mind too!

  10. #10
    How about giving something which helps some or somewhere?
    This is just an example but maybe choose a subject the family member is interested in?

    I have always veered on the point of view that Hans expressed myself. a very very old tradition rather than a commercial promotion.

  11. #11
    This will be the first Advent and Christmas that I am not responsible for liturgical celebrations of the season. When I was at the Cathedral in Atlanta, we would do a live Christmas Eve service that was either on local TV or a national CBS feed. I can only barely remember my sense of pressure to perform. Glad that this is no longer a part of my life. my family still celebrates and we will probably go to the local Trappist monastery for Chrismas Eve but it no longer has much power in my own life.
    By the way, one of my favorite stories came from my days in Texas when I visited a friend who owned a sporting good store. I asked him how Christmas shopping was going for him. He replied "Great! I only wish Jesus has a brother that was born in July."
    Advent was a meaningful season of anticipation and expectancy, with sensual moments of light coming into the darkness. I can make my own Buddhist translation. I am working hard not to put a damper on my family's celebration of this time of year.

  12. #12
    How about giving something which helps some or somewhere?


    My U.U. fellowship is raising money for a special project in which the money raised buys a rickshaw for a family in India ( I believe Calcutta,) that they can use to earn money.
    Each rickshaw costs about $150 and will feed the people who recieve it for a lifetime.
    I'm thinking about donating two myself, in the names of two friends.
    If anyone wants info, let me know!

  13. #13
    Awww....Ten! Here's a big mental hug to you because you sound so sad in your post!

    Sure, it's like finding out about the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy *and Santa. The word is: Dis-illusionment. But that's very good news!! You are able to see through the illusions of what the season has become to *some! But...only to some, my friend. Maybe I'm naieve but I really do find that it is a period of time where compassion and kindness and charity do seem to come forth a bit more.

    On a Buddhist note: this is, coincidentally, the time of great celebration in the Buddhist calendar as it is the time of the Buddha's Enlightenment and there are many rituals of the bringing of the light from the darkness that are done. There is a Jewel Tree spoken of in the sutras which bare an *very interesting resemblence to a Christmas tree and, in the monastery where I was, we had two Christmas trees on the main altar and decorations all around. (Rev. Master Jiyu *LOVED this season and did not throw out the baby with the bathwater.)

    On a personal note: I exchange gifts with my family and friends in many ways that are not commercial. I make something every year: one year I made a CD of my fave instrumental Christmas tunes, last year I took 12 of my fave photos that I snapped and had them made into a calendar (lulu.com), this year I have made my traditional fig/date/rum soaked cake (which sits and talks to itself for 5 weeks before being eaten! :wink: ) Additionally, this year I donated two children books in the name of each of my kids to the local book drive for kids who otherwise may not get books for Christmas. To make it personal to my kids, the book that was donated in their name was a particular fave of each of them when they were young. I got a little gift reciept for the donation and have pasted it into a card to go with their gifts.

    For my son in Iraq I have collected, from all over town, video Christmas wishes from family and friends and some folks he doesn't even know and will put them on a disc as a video Christmas card.

    It's ok to be saddened by the commercialism, but remember that, with all things, you can change your reaction to it with a thought instant. You can also consider helping out by volunteering at a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, a food bank. Maybe you will see something differnent there.

    In Gassho~

    *Lynn

  14. #14
    LOL I told my beloved Sharleen about my comparison between Santa and Hotei. At Pier One Imports today, she found a bright red ceramic seated Hotei that she brought home for me and put a tiny red hat on. It'll be under our tree.
    The kids are confused.
    I like the comparison.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    LOL I told my beloved Sharleen about my comparison between Santa and Hotei. At Pier One Imports today, she found a bright red ceramic seated Hotei that she brought home for me and put a tiny red hat on. It'll be under our tree.
    The kids are confused.
    I like the comparison.
    I had always thought that the rather overweight laughing Buddha was a Chinese depiction of Shakyamuni Buddha (with symbolically exaggerated body dimensions). Are these all suppose to be Hotei, the 'predicted' future Buddha?

    …and yes, all he would need is a beard and some reindeer.

    Cheers,
    KElly

  16. #16
    Hi,

    I also have a Christian background and look forward to the celebrations, markets, festivals, etc. this time of year, even though I haven't considered myself to be Christian for some 20 years now. After I moved to Germany (in 1996) it became too difficult to send presents back and forth to my family in the USA, so for the first few years we had the rather silly practice of sending checks to one another. Now we just send cards and have long chats on the phone, and my wife and her parents also keep that consumer madness to an absolute minimum. All of this makes for a much more enjoyable holiday season. Here in Germany the season really kicks in as of the 1st advent (yesterday), and if you keep your eyes and your mind open, there really are lots of opportunities to practice the Dharma amidst all that commericalism and Christianity. My wife and I just went to a nice advent bazaar over the weekend, where all the proceeds were to go to various charity organizations, e.g. children with cancer, homeless people, etc. It was a good excuse to buy lots of goodies, too.

    Gassho
    Ken

  17. #17
    Thank you all for your replies. And thanks for the mental hug Lynn!

    I've finally caved in to pressure and have decided to buy presents (thoughtful presents) for others and to receive them in return. My Mum last night looked genuinely sad when she said I have to have something to open on Christmas morning. I'm torn between enjoying Christmas with everyone and sticking by my principles against greedy and needless companies trying to make as much money year on year as they possibly can and all the pointless stress it causes others.

    One minor example of this which I think proves the point quite well is in one of my old jobs we'd be selling Poinsettias in the run up to Christmas. One day one of the big boss guys told me that most people put Poinsettias by their windows and the draft can kill them off quickly, but we don't tell them that so they come back and buy more. It's all completely senseless and you wonder how much longer this model can be sustainable for (I'm now wandering into something much bigger which I'll leave for another day).

    Homemade presents and other thoughtful ideas are so much better I think, unfortunately I'm not a very imaginitive or creative person. At least I've still got time to shop. :roll:

    There's a Christmas in the square in my town this year, hopefully going to this will stop me being so cynical.

    Bah humbug indeed!!

  18. #18
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    For my part, I too enjoy the celebration of Christmas. As Lynn says, Jiyu Kennett taught that the symbols are what you make of them, and suggested a "Bodhi tree" consisting of a plastic tree (she didn't like cut flowers or trees) in the shape of an evergreen tree (evergreen to symbolise the eternal nature of the dharma) adorned with candles (to symbolise the light of the Buddha's enlightenment) and with baubles or fruits (to represent the fruits of enlightenment). We put a Bodhi tree like this up at home and one in my office by 8th December every year. Oddly enough, to the uninitiated it looks rather like a Christmas tree. My secretary, who is a Jehovah's Witness, and who is forbidden to decorate Christmas trees, just loves decorating the Bodhi tree!

    Gassho

    Martin

  19. #19
    Around my house we celebrate the Winter Solstice, Yule and my wife's birthday since they fall within days of each other.

    I get burned out on the commercialism, decorations being displayed on the first of November, and the music being played everywhere before Thanksgiving is over.

    A good point was raised earlier that the message of the Christmas season, peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, is something that we should carry with is everyday in our practice of the Way.

    Happy Rohatsu
    Happy Christmas
    Happy Hanukka
    Happy Yule
    Happy Holidays
    Happy New Year

    No matter what you say, the wish for happiness is still there.

    May all beings be happy.

    R

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Martin
    As Lynn says, Jiyu Kennett ... suggested a "Bodhi tree" consisting of a plastic tree (she didn't like cut flowers or trees) in the shape of an evergreen tree (evergreen to symbolise the eternal nature of the dharma) adorned with candles (to symbolise the light of the Buddha's enlightenment) and with baubles or fruits (to represent the fruits of enlightenment). We put a Bodhi tree like this up at home and one in my office by 8th December every year.
    I see nothing wrong in adopting this as an official (optional) practice at Treeleaf too. Sounds great. That, and the Jew-Bu menorah ...



    ... and, of course, SHAKYA CLAUS ...



    Gassho and ho ho ho

  21. #21
    Sounds (and looks) great! :P

  22. #22
    Don't you mean Gassho ho ho ?

  23. #23

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by will
    Don't you mean Gassho ho ho ?
    ho ho gassho... the syllables flow better.

  25. #25
    I celebrate the Christmas amongst my relatives in the traditional capitalist way, thought this year I only asked the Santa to bring me three books (I bought like ten myself this month). Nothing says Holiday like a pile of good virgin books just waiting to be read!



    Ok, we are not consumption junkies, but the whole family gathering in the living room to open presents has been part of my Christmas since I can remember, and it just wouldn't be the same if there was nothing there under the Tree.

  26. #26

    Christmas present

    I apologize for being absent after beginning to be part of this online community.
    I won't go on about Christmas except to say that I don't like it. Details available on request. :wink:

    My son wrapped up a great big box. I opened it; it was empty, except for this--

    A box of no-thing
    Anticipation is snow
    The spring will melt it.

    Zenta Claus


    How can I not be proud, love him, rejoice that at 24 he walks so much more lightly than I did? It was one of the best things I've ever recieved because of what was before/beneath/behind it.

    Rev Don
    p.s. another gift whose reception was not joyous was the death of my friend and college roommate in November.

    p.p.s. fwiw, I'll try to be here more often as I have left off moderating and battling elsewhere.

    p.p.p.s. We got a young active cat friend for good ol' Flannery. I am glad to be living a life that if someone asks me what the most exciting thing that has happened in the last month, I can say, "We got another cat."

    p.p.p.p.s. Ten, as others as pointed to, it's about compassion, relationships. Principles are things we possess and by which we can be possessed. You. Me. Him. Her. No inbetween. 8)

  27. #27
    Hi Don,

    A very nice, little extra present in the stocking was to hear from you.

    Happy Holidays Gassho, J

  28. #28
    How can I not be proud, love him, rejoice that at 24 he walks so much more lightly than I did? It was one of the best things I've ever recieved because of what was before/beneath/behind it.


    While I was in Iraq, Christmas was brutal. Not because of the religious aspect for me, but because of the family and tradition. (And that damned "I'll Be Home For Christmas" song.)
    A day before Christmas, I got a rather huge box from home. It was light. Opening it, I found a much smaller box, within which was nothing but a picture of my kids and a tiny slip of paper on which was typed the word, "LOVE."
    That's all.
    Best Christmas present I ever got.

  29. #29
    HI Don. Thanks for the post.

    Gassho Will

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