Christmas; Decoration and Recognition

Hello friends,

As Christmas nears, we’ve been making the usual preparations — cleaning, decorating, cooking (and eating), and shopping. Well, maybe not as much shopping for us as some families, but I think the point here is we’ve pretty much been doing the same thing most families in the U.S. do at this time of year.

christmastree-2012We’ve kept the decorating minimal this year in comparison to previous years because, quite frankly, baby Aly wants to put it all in her mouth and many of the decorations are way too small or fragile to be safe with an 11 month old exploring. We’ve even opted for a smaller tree this year so we can keep it on a table and mostly out of reach.

The tree is one of those pre-lit fiber optic trees [sorry for the fuzzy pic] and it rotates on it’s base. It’s actually a neat little tree and, where it stands, it is almost entirely out of the reach of the baby so we feel much more confident with it than I think we would have a larger one. I did miss having to put lights on it, but I suppose it is a small price to pay to make sure everything is simple and safe this year.

Aside from decorating, my wife has made great efforts toward re-organizing (and baby-proofing) our living room, and even our desk has managed to get cleaned up enough to not look like a giant pile of paper. Dalton and I have also put some effort into cleaning up the classroom, in which my own quiet space resides.

shrine_decorated_christmas-2012_2With all of this cleaning and decorating going on, I made sure to find a way to get a little silly with it too. I see value in Christmas traditions (some people I know at work seem surprised about that, but it is true), and I am recognizing this in my own odd little way by decorating my shrine.

I thought briefly about getting some sort of garland to “top off” the effect of the lights I set up, but decided against it as I regularly have open flames going and it just didn’t seem wise…

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas in the same way as your neighbors, or your family and friends, how do you recognize the significance of the day in your own way? I love and take to heart to words of Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh:

We have blood parents, we have blood ancestors; but we have also our spiritual parents, our spiritual ancestors. … I have adopted Jesus as another spiritual ancestor. In me they are alive. I do not have any conflict with them as I do not have any conflict with my blood parents and ancestors.

I think, as Thich Nhat Hanh, that this is a particularly valuable part of my Buddhist practice. This helps to keep me grounded in a society in which I could easily become uprooted as a result of the difference in my spiritual leanings.

Christmas is a great time to set aside the differences between people and look at the similiarities — the good and beautiful, the compassion and generosity embodied  in others. Focusing on these things, we decorate not only our homes, but our lives.

May you all find peace this holiday season, regardless of religion or tradition. May those who celebrate Jesus as the Son of the Father do so in earnest and take His teachings to heart, and may we all appreciate and respect the traditions (and beliefs) of others.

Be well, my friends.


Nam Mô Bổn Sư Thích Ca Mâu Ni Phật!



  1. Dennis Beyer · · Reply

    A tradition that we have been trying to include my family in is done with something called Opuatki (I totally butchered the spelling, it’s Polish). Blessed, unleavened bread (like Catholics use for church) is made into somewhat large squares (instead of the smaller traditional circles). A short prayer is said as a group and then each person takes a square of the Opuatki, everyone then walks around to all others in the room and offers hugs, handshakes, kisses, whatever to with one another and a Merry Christmas. While doing this you take a small portion of the person’s Opuatki that you are with at the moment and they a part of your’s. It’s intended by the end of the short time this takes that you have shared all of your’s with everyone else. It’s a great way for everyone to be sure they’ve had the chance to at least spend a short moment with all of their loved one’s present that evening. It’s also intended that each household in a family send square to the other households in the family. It’s a simple yet nice tradition that I’m happy to call part of my own since meeting my wife.

    1. That is one of the neatest things about the joining of two families via marriage — the sharing of some of these little traditions that help keep the familial bonds strong. 🙂

      I hope your Christmas was wonderful, Denny, and may you have a happy new year as well.

      1. Dennis Beyer · ·

        Thanks! And the same to you 🙂

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