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What Are Vesak and Rohatsu?

Let's Make Buddhist Holidays KID & FAMILY FRIENDLY!


The "BUDDHIST FAMILY HOLIDAYS PROJECT" is a cooperative effort among various Zen Buddhist Sangha in the West to make Buddhist holidays more "kid friendly" while preserving the traditional messages, teachings, values and customs of the original. It is sometimes said that Buddhist groups in the West could do a bit more to be welcoming of children, and we might take some simple steps in our Sangha groups and at home to communicate basic teachings and practices to younger kids and teens (something which both Buddhist groups in the East and other religious groups in the West are quite attentive to). In both Asian Buddhism and for other religions in the West, "religious holidays" can be a time for families to unite, to bond through customs and practices, and to bring children into the spirit of the season through the celebration. Holidays can be an important time to expose children to Buddhist teachings and values in ways that leave a lasting, positive impression for the future.

While preserving all our traditions and practices, what can we add to these important holidays to let the whole family be part? 

This is something that weighs heavily on many Buddhist parents at times of the year, when other religions have their big celebrations. Buddhist children might feel left out, and we may be missing an opportunity to teach the next generation important lessons while making them feel included in our Practices, bestowing a positive feeling about Buddhism as they grow up. Most importantly, we can do so BOTH while preserving the true message of these Buddhist holidays AND avoiding the crassness and commercialism that has come to represent some holidays in the West. The following suggestions for the holidays are not meant in any way to replace the traditional ceremonies, Sesshin and other traditions which accompany these holidays, but merely to bring these days a little closer to a child's understanding.

Below are several suggested ideas which Sanghas and families at home might adapt, hand in hand with traditional practices and teachings. What's more, please help us further develop these ideas, join in the dialogue with your own creative ideas and suggestions, and participate in making these "new traditions" truly something good. This place is a 'work in progress', and we expect many of the suggestions for celebrations to develop and be added to with the participation of our members. We invite you to submit and introduce your own ideas and hints for the Buddhist holidays.  

AMONG OUR READER'S OTHER IDEAS AND SUGGESTIONS
WE ARE SOLICITING STORY AND SONG WRITERS to submit their creations for BUDDHIST HOLIDAYS TALES AND MUSIC
Art for our GALLERY OF KIDS' HOLIDAY DRAWINGS TOO!
 (SEE LINKS BELOW) 



 

VESAK HOLIDAY IDEAS (SPRING)

  • Bathing The Baby Buddha On the day of Vesak, participate in a ceremony (with your Sangha and priests, or at home with your family) in which all participants bathe a figure of baby Buddha ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:07 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Celebrating Nature Vesak is a holiday of birth and Spring and ever new beginnings and hope for this world. Go outside with your family, if weather permits, and touch nature. As a ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:35 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Practice of Dana (Giving) As a family, make a donation of money, food, clothes, etc. to a foodbank, shelter, or other charitable organizations. It would be best if the donation were money that the ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:15 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Lighting Vesak Lanterns Make Vesak lanterns with the kids! INSTRUCTIONS ARE BELOW. Each family member should make one to symbolize both the Buddha's light and the light within each of us ...
    Posted Mar 10, 2011, 5:48 AM by Jundo Cohen
  • A Birthday Party For Baby Buddha! Celebrate the holiday with a typical child's birthday party, but with the Baby Buddha as the Birthday Boy! Invite other, especially Buddhist children. Cake and ice cream (in moderation ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:18 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Read To Kids The story of Buddha's birth, early life and continue up to and slightly after, his enlightenment. This story can be found in a few different versions like "Becoming Buddha ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:19 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Elephant Hunt Much like an egg hunt, families with small children could enjoy an "ELEPHANT HUNT" -  elephants because Siddhartha's mother dreamt of a white elephant while she was pregnant with him ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:23 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • When To Celebrate? Vesak is celebrated at various, changing times in April and May in Asia depending on the year and country. It is celebrated each year on April 8th in Japan, other ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:25 PM by Jundo Cohen
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WHATEVER THE HOLIDAY OR TIME OF YEAR, please sometimes sit Zazen with your kids next to you or in your lap, even if just for a few minutes until they fall asleep or go off to play. Even older kids who are not sitters may deeply appreciate your asking them to join with you in sitting from time to time. Chant together too. If smaller children, don't be afraid to sit Zazen while your children play in the same room, a watchful eye open even as we sit with our breath or Koan. Truly, the only disturbances are of our own making, "interruptions" are not interruptions, and children are Great Teachers of the Virtues of Patience and Love. PLEASE DISCUSS HERE "SITTING WITH KIDS".

ORIGINAL CHILDREN'S STORY CONTEST

  • SUBMIT an ORIGINAL CHILDREN'S STORY, RHYME, CHANT or GATHA PLEASE SUBMIT AN ORIGINAL STORY FOR CHILDREN on the theme of VESAK OR ROHATSU, THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA, or ANY BUDDHIST TEACHINGS, HISTORY OR SUBJECT. As well, please submit ...
    Posted Mar 10, 2011, 6:44 PM by Jundo Cohen
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ROHATSU HOLIDAY IDEAS (WINTER)

  • When to Celebrate? "Bodhi Day" is the Buddhist holiday commemorating the day that the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautauma experienced enlightenment ("Bodhi" in Sanskrit and Pali).  After spending years living the life of an ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:30 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Day of Fasting To commemorate Shakyamuni's period of denial and fasting in the time prior to his enlightenment, one Day of Fasting may be a moving practice. Fasting is an old and ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:34 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Ricemilk Meal To break the day of fasting ... make and enjoy a family meal or treat of rice pudding, or traditional "ricemilk," together with your loved ones. This can be done while ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:36 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Mara's Temptations Have your children promise to give up something they love for a day (adults can give up three things) or for several days ... candy, dessert, television, video games or the ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:40 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Bodhi Day Family Meal Celebrate Bodhi Day with a special dinner inviting family and friends. The meal can be held on a convenient night near Bodhi Day. A vegetarian meal is suggested, and we ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 9:59 AM by Jundo Cohen
  • Lights of Enlightenment Light candles each of the seven nights of Rohatsu, together as a family, parents helping small children to do the lighting. Here is an example of such a ceremony:First ...
    Posted Mar 16, 2011, 2:58 AM by Jundo Cohen
  • Organize a "Blanket Drive" Together with your kids, collect from your home blankets and other warm clothing for the homeless in winter, or organize a "blanket drive" collecting blankets and warm clothing from many ...
    Posted Mar 16, 2011, 3:27 AM by Jundo Cohen
  • Decorating the Bodhi Tree The Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, is a species of banyan fig known as "sacred fig" (ficus religiosa, of 'bo' tree). One might purchase a potted live ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 7:44 PM by Jundo Cohen
  • Giving Loving Words & Gifts Avoid store-bought cards, and have children and adults sit down together around the family table to write personal, heartfelt letters and cards of love and gratitude to family members ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2011, 9:31 AM by Jundo Cohen
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HOLIDAY SONG CONTEST

  • SUBMIT AN ORIGINAL HOLIDAY SONG PLEASE SUBMIT AN ORIGINAL SONG OR MUSICAL COMPOSITION on the theme of VESAK OR ROHATSU, THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA, or ANY BUDDHIST TEACHINGS, HISTORY OR SUBJECT. HOWEVER, SONGS SHOULD ...
    Posted Mar 10, 2011, 6:36 AM by Jundo Cohen
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