Making up the Season-
Christmas can be a confusing time of the year for children. To be honest I still don’t have it all sorted out. My father came to Hawaii when he was 11 years old , I don’t know much about his life there before then. He came during the exile in China in 1910. What I do know is that up until that time he was raised in a traditional Chinese and Buddhist environment.
I am not sure how much he knew or understood about Buddhism but that he practiced it his whole life. Whenever asked, he would say “We are Buddhist”, though he never took the time to explain it to me. Growing up I didn’t know much about it, but we “practiced” it. In other words we burned incense in our home, we had lots of little Buddha’s around the house but above all we practiced compassion to others, that was a general rule of thumb. I learned much about Buddhism on my own, in college, and from studying the teachings of His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
So, I never experienced a Christmas tree in our home, or Christmas presents, or Santa Clause or mangers. However, in my father’s restaurant (below our home,) there was a Christmas tree that staff would put up, and Christmas presents and a Christmas Staff Party, so I did observe Christmas from a distance. I tried desperately to piece the puzzle together that consisted of Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, a baby in a manger, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Angels heralding the birth of the Savior? Its very daunting for a youngster. In school I sang in a classical choir and each year at this time we sang a lot of old traditional Christmas songs many of them still in original German. Try and piece the holidays together from the lyrics of those old songs and you will truly be confused! I mean who the heck is Good King Wensilis?
Before long you figure out on your own, that there is no singular way that people celebrate the holidays, it means different things to different people- often a result of the traditions they (we) are raised in. Today, we recognize many holidays with different traditions such as Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and of course Christmas. As we build our own families along come traditions new and old. We can recreate the holidays in a way that has meaning and tradition for each of us individually. Now I have my own son, this is the first year he can comprehend the holidays. He loves to walk through our neighborhood and “wow” and “ahhh” at all the Christmas lights and lawn decor. We have put up a holiday tree in our home, something I only started doing a few years ago. I must admit I kind of like it, it feels festive. And with a tree comes talk of Santa Clause and presents if well behaved.
It finally occurred to me after all these years, that the holidays really take on a magical meaning when seen through the eyes of children. It’s important for me that the holidays however are not just about receiving gifts. I think a few gifts are a good thing, I am just hoping we can keep it under control? I would like to instill in Tino the internal value of giving and experience the joy and blessing that comes with giving. I do realize we will have to take it one holiday at a time, to enjoy these precious moments, and to continue thinking of others during the season of merriment. We are so blessed to have the concept of Ohana here in Hawaii, which is inclusive of everyone, and extension of ourselves to others so that no one is left behind. It is a philanthropic core value that I want to instill in the making of our holiday season.
I leave you with a few questions to ponder. What makes up the traditions and values of your holidays? How will you teach them to your children? How will they make sense of all the bell ringing clutter that the season has become?