These days, it’s hard for me to understand what the problem is.
Once upon a time I used to rail about how Christmas was just the Christian appropriation of established pagan celebrations.
Now I embrace it more as a cultural holiday, one I grew up with. As a Buddhist, this presents no problem at all. I was reminded of this recently in The Simpsons episode titled “She of Little Faith” wherein Lisa is discouraged with the commercialization of her church and becomes a Buddhist, to the horror of her family and the congregation. They try to bring her back into the fold by enticing her with Christmas presents. She almost succumbs, but stands her ground in the end, albeit sadly. Then she is consoled by none other than Richard Gere, who tells her there is no conflict between being Buddhist and celebrating Christmas.
I also have no problem with telling my children that Linus Van Pelt’s famous speech in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is absolutely true: the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is all about. But it’s not the “reason for the season.” That would be the winter solstice.
For me, it’s all about light, whether it’s the returning of the daylight celebrated by the pagans, or the lights of the menorah, or Jesus as the “light of the world,” or even the Buddha’s enlightenment. Just let the light shine.
(Originally published December 2009.)