Do Buddhists celebrate Christmas? As with every question, there are many answers. This year, we celebrated Bodhisattva Day on the 25th, which is the traditional ‘holiday’ for the Abbey I guess. It looked a lot like Christmas. A Bodhisattva is a person who aspires to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all beings and vows to not enter Nirvana until all beings are already there. Jesus is considered a Bodhisattva, so the day is kinda ‘same-same’, without all the gifts and music. Well, not really the same at all then.
Our celebrating started on the 16th when a few of us went to the United Christ Church in Pleasant Bay for a community get-together and potluck. A few of our neighbors were there and lots of kids.
The kids sang songs, told Christmas jokes, and generally ran up and down the aisle. There were some adults who played original music, a Celtic fiddler, a neighbor who told a local folktale and Dawa, one of the temporary monastics, sang ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’.
It was really fun, and not just because we got to chew food after 1:30pm. (oh, and did we ever chew food….). Marcel, one of the cooks for the 3 year retreat got tapped to play Santa which was great because then the kids really thought it was Santa. No opportunities for an older kid to spot their Dad under the fake beard and call him out. Truth be told though, a few of us were only able to make it because our attempt to drive 3 hours to see The Hobbit before we couldn’t leave the grounds until February fell through when my champion of a city car, The Vibe, couldn’t make it up the icy mountain. All for the best.
The day of the 25th was an off day for us, the last one before Yarne and all the extra guests had already arrived. There was a consensus from the residents to put together a really nice brunch and eat like a big family.
So Tsultrim, the kitchen manager, put up a sign up sheet and a bunch of us committed to cooking and decorating the dining room. I have mentioned this before, but it kind of requires repeating. Our celebrations revolve around an excessive amount of sugar. We had Baked French Toast with syrup, cookies, pies, chocolate, fruit, scalloped potatoes, eggs, chocolate croissants, more chocolate, more cookies etc. etc. I had take a nap after brunch and before eating even more sugar in the evening just to give my body the concentration to process it all. It was exactly like a family gathering. There was even an eating annex in the Library because there were too many of us.
It also happened to be Chodzin’s birthday, so later that evening, we gathered at the ‘Abbey extension’, the building turned into a dorm for the residents to accomodate the guests, and hung out. We had tea and more pie, and more chocolate, sat on cushions, listened to music and lived like we were all back in college. Well, without the alcohol. And the party ended at 8pm because we had to get up early for chants the next day. But other than that, just like college.
It’s pretty remote up here and sometimes you feel disconnected from the outside world (which most people come here for) and homesick and lonely. There aren’t any kids or pets. You start to wonder, ‘how am I benefitting anyone?’. Taking part in community and the ‘Abbey Family’ celebrations were really nice and served as an example of how you can be a serious practitioner and still be part of the world. I would like to take something away from my time here that will be helpful to myself and everyone around me. Something to balance the blood sugar problem I will also be taking away from here.