Catherine Fordham, a second-gen American Buddhist or ‘Dharma Brat,’ lives and works in New York City.
Christmas is not my holiday.
It was not my saviour born on this night, it is not my church that gathers, not my family at Mass. And yet, as a Buddhist on Christmas Eve, I can’t help but feel something.
It’s not excitement for presents, since I got my one and only days ago, and it’s not anticipation for big plans, since mine only includes Chinese food and movies. It’s the erie, exciting, anticipatory feeling of the whole City clicking, coming into synch.
In such a diverse, complex world, and maybe especially in such a hectic, bustling city like New York, there is real power in so many people stopping together. The whole city shuts down—and people gather together at home, for once. Black storefronts, closed restaurants, warm ovens, quiet streets. The radio plays one kind of music. There are specials on TV. I’ve felt it since I was a child—it’s the one time all year when almost everyone is on the same page. Sure, other national holidays unite us in our activity—Thanksgiving is a day to eat, no matter what religion you are; and all over the nation we enjoy fireworks on the Fourth of July.
But there is something far more reverent taking place, even on this most commercial of holidays.
It’s a stop. And it’s a full stop with the depth that this holiday brings with it. It’s a full stop that has happened on time, no matter the world situation, for thousands of years. And, even if it’s not specifically relevant to my religion that Jesus was born on this eve, performed miracles, and met three wise men—it’s a day with history, and with a great story, and a capacity to make all the men on Wall Street stop to sing together.
And that’s pretty darn sweet to me.