Do Buddhists Celebrate Christmas?

Via on Dec 20, 2013

buddhist christmas santa hat statue

Once in a while, people ask me this question: “Do you celebrate Christmas?”

They know I’m a Buddhist and they associate Christmas with Christianity.

But I still think it’s a weird question. It doesn’t bother me, really, but I think it’s weird.

I do celebrate Christmas. In my house, we hang lights, put up a tree and exchange gifts. My kids even believe in Santa.

All of this, even though I don’t believe in Christ.

Is Christmas a religious holiday? I tend to think it isn’t anymore, if it ever was.

Santa, Reindeer, Mistletoe, Christmas Trees; none of these things have anything to do with Jesus. I wonder how many people spend Christmas having quality time with their families and how many people spend it in a church. I know there are a lot more songs about Santa and snow than there are about Jesus. I think that doesn’t really matter because it’s more about the virtues Jesus represents than it is about Jesus, but maybe a believer would be more qualified to comment on that than I am.

It is a United States Federal Holiday. Is this because most Americans are Christian? Or is there some other reason?

People who are just a little bit religious celebrate it too, as do people that aren’t religious at all. It isn’t just the devout.

To me, it’s a secular holiday.

We celebrate good will, kindness, and generosity. These are Buddhist virtues as well as Christian ones.

So, in a sense, it’s a good holiday for Buddhists too. We emphasize these virtues constantly in Buddhism. Compassion and love are fundamental principles in Buddhism. Generosity is one of the six perfections.

Christmas is so powerful because of these virtues that it celebrates, I think. It’s also a holiday where we spend quality time with our families, enjoying each other’s company. Of course we just did that a month ago for Thanksgiving, but we can do it again. Quality time with our families is probably a good idea. Some people only see their families on Christmas.

As far as I know, every Buddhist that I know celebrates Christmas.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy of the author

About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel 'Heng Xue' Scharpenburg is an authorized teacher in the Ch'an Guild of Huineng, in the lineage of Ch'an Master Xu Yun. He continues to study under Buddhist teachers in several different traditions. He runs a Buddhist Sunday School for children at the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City and leads a sitting group called Far Out Zen. faroutzen.com He writes a blog at reluctantmonk.wordpress.com   You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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7 Responses to “Do Buddhists Celebrate Christmas?”

  1. Daniel Scharpenburg danielschar says:

    Admittedly, people in other countries probably don't get asked this question as often as people in the United States, if ever.

  2. andy says:

    Not forgetting england, Australia, new Zealand, ireland, canada, Jamaica and the other host of countries that as a society celebrate Christmas and have a large Buddhist following.

    • Daniel Scharpenburg Daniel Scharpenburg says:

      Not forgetting, of course. But I don’t have much experience with those countries, I don’t know if they are quite as Christmas obsessed as America is.

  3. Drew says:

    Help… Okay… good concept… however what's up with the "I don't believe in Christ" comment? Sounds a little like Christians saying "I don't believe in Buddha" How does this attitude move us forward?

    • Daniel Scharpenburg danielschar says:

      I don't understand your point, Drew. I can celebrate our differences and respect another religion without joining it myself. Are you Unitarian Universalist? I am not.

  4. William says:

    I agree with most of what you say. Except the part of not knowing Buddhists that do not celebrate Christmas. I have many friends that are Buddhists AND do not celebrate Christmas.

    Our family celebrates Solstice and have a nice dinner together with small gifting and discussing the impermance of life as illustrated by the change of seasons.

    The rest of our efforts are put into helping others during this season and enjoying each other’s company.

    Have a wonderful season and may your life be filled with compassion and love.

    • Daniel Scharpenburg danielschar says:

      to be clear, I didn't say there are none, I only said that the ones I know celebrate Christmas. To be more clear, I've met monks from other countries and I imagine they don't celebrate Christmas, so I suppose I was probably mistaken anyway.

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