Hindus and Christmas

There are many, many Hindus who don’t feel defensive about the holidays of other religions and happily join in celebrations for any festival. It is often said that Indians love to celebrate and will participate in any holiday that’s available!

It strikes me that you must be really secure and confident in your religion to be able to embrace and enjoy the holidays of other religions. I strive to be that way.

hindu christmas

For me it’s hit or miss. Each year around Christmas is different for me. Some years I’m happy for the people whose holiday it is and wish them well, enjoying the spirit of joy. Other years I feel defensive and frustrated that Christmas is such a big deal, known and understood by everyone in America, while my holidays go by with hardly anyone even knowing they exist.

It may be easier in India where our holidays are firmly established? Maybe then celebrating a minority religion’s holiday like Christmas wouldn’t feel like giving in to the Borg who want to assimilate us all. Maybe.

Last year was a rough one for me for some reason. This year I’m feeling a lot more at peace.

My mother-in-law asked me recently if we were going to celebrate Christmas. Even though she knew from the start that I’m Hindu, I think it was the first time she realized I might not do Christmas. For her it isn’t religious, it’s social. My husband was raised not religious and Christmas was a time for spending time with family and lots of great family rituals. There are fond memories of those times.

I’ve been reluctant to bring Christmas traditions into our home. Brad would like to do a tree. I have a very difficult relationship with Christianity and I feel pretty uncomfortable about bringing a Christian ritual into my home. So maybe we’ll just re-frame a tree decorating as a solstice/pagan type thing. That I wouldn’t be upset about! The only issue with Christian things is that I have this feeling frequently like Christians are steamrolling through the world, crushing everything that isn’t them. In a country that is predominantly Christian, it’s hard not to feel like you’re being squashed by its huge machine.

On the other hand, it bothers the very religious Christians that Christmas has become pretty secular and more about family time and family rituals than about Jesus, so maybe me doing a very non-religious Christmas will be a way of fighting back too.

Another option for Hindus in America is a holiday made up by the gurus at the Himalayan Academy. The Hindus behind Hinduism Today, they also worry about Hindu traditions being crushed by the overwhelmingly Christian atmosphere of America and so they came up with a new Ganesha Holiday: Pancha Ganapati (Five Ganesha)

Pancha Ganapati How To

This is a five day holiday starting on December 21 through December 25th and each day celebrates a different aspect of Ganesha.

As a home festival, one would put a Ganesha figure in the central living area. Preferably a large wooden or bronze statue showing Ganesha in his five-face form. “…the importance of this festival as a new beginning and mending of all mistakes of the past”

ganesha

Because Ganesha is connected to the forest you can decorate with pine boughs or durva grass. It is also fine to add tinsel, blinking lights, and hanging ornaments to this shrine!

Each day the Ganesha is dressed (preferably by the children of the household) in clothes that match the color of that day. Each morning a tray is prepared to offer puja to Ganesha with sweets, fruits, and incense. Each day wrapped gifts are added around Ganesha’s feet and all the gifts will be opened on the final day. (“Ganesha does not want gift-giving to promote Western commercialism but to further the great Hindu culture.” ) The offered sweets are given to the children and family members as prasadam. Ganesha songs are sung and Hindu-themed greeting cards created and sent.

December 21st: Yellow. On this day the family gathers and resolves any tensions or conflicts. They spend time expressing the things they most love about one another. Forgiveness is the theme of the day.

December 22nd: Blue. On this day it is time to seek forgiveness and make amends with any friends, relatives, or neighbors we may have upset.  Clearing up misunderstandings is the theme of the day.

December 23rd: Red. On this day the family clears up any debts and spreads goodwill among coworkers, merchants, and the general public. It is a time to honor and thank employees and employers.

December 24th: Green. This is a day for the arts. Family gathers to sing songs, play instruments, dance, and cultivate creativity. Ways to bring more art into everyday life are discussed.

December 25th: Orange. On the final day there are five special pujas that welcome Ganesha’s blessings into our lives…

6:00 AM “Before the puja, personal offering trays are prepared and placed before His shrine. After the puja, each one gives verbal testimony about prayers that were answered during the past year. Hearing testimonies strengthens the faith of everyone. Then vows of sacrifice can be verbally made. Vows should improve the quality of the life of the individual, such as giving up smoking or correcting other harmful habits.”

9:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 3:00 PM

6:00 PM This is the grand finale of the holiday. After this puja, all the gathered gifts are opened and then it is time to feast!

Pancha Ganapati should be celebrated in a distinctly Hindu way. The items which should not be used are Christmas trees, Santa Claus or symbols of other religions. These symbols carry connotations that are to be avoided in Hindu worship. Season’s greeting cards should be Hindu in design and content. Season’s greetings to friends in other religions can continue with thoughts of Hindu wisdom or quotes from Hindu scripture. If properly chosen they will be appreciated and cherished. - http://ebooks.gutenberg.us/HimalayanAcademy/SacredHinduLiterature/lg/lg_ch-15.html

This is so subversive I just have to laugh. I love it!

 ***

Here is a Hindu family with a Christmas tree and the mom explains why: http://beingrudri.com/2009/12/21/a-hindu-christmas/

Some tips for Interfaith families: http://marriage.about.com/od/holidaysinterfaith/a/interfatrad.htm

This shop offers Hindu “Christmas” ornaments! http://www.zazzle.com/ganesh_ganesha_ganapati_hindu_elephant_deity_ornament-175915729155694144

There is a concern that celebrating Christmas would be confusing for American Hindu children, but as much as I do worry about that I have to admit that I grew up celebrating Christmas and it certainly didn’t make me into a Christian!

My New Favorite Cookbook
Racial Identity: me and Rachel Dolezal
Do I Really Want Enlightenment?
Book Expo America
About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X