A Buddhist Christmas

I’m spending this Christmas Eve in a Buddhist temple in Malaysia. I figure it’s the closest I can come to the tradition of going to church with my Dad. Dad and I only go to church Christmas Eve. We go to sing Christmas songs. Now, here it is, sunset Christmas Eve, I’m backpacking with the weight of homesickness on my back, and I feel like reliving holiday traditions alone in Malaysia. The temple will fill in for the church, memory will fill in for my family, and silence will fill in for Christmas carols. Buddhists pray very silently. Occasionally some monk bangs a gong off in the distance, but, for the most part, Buddhist temples are silent places. I’m singing Silent Night in my head, watching these quiet Buddhists worship by burning paper shoes, paper televisions, wrapped presents, leaving delicious looking food at altars, all in faith that they will transcend this world and reach their dead relatives. I can understand the need for shoes, even in the afterlife, but, does the family burning the t.v. in front of me really think they pick up HBO in the heaven? Who am I to judge? Heaven probably has cable.

….                                                  Signs Inside a Buddhist Temple:                                         ….

                                The temple authorities request people to pray to their ancestors earlier 

                                to avoid traffic jams on all souls day.

….                                                                                                                                                    ….

                                Please be informed that no meat is allowed to be taken into this

                                temple, only vegetarian food is allowed to be used for praying.

                                Authorities from the temple have the right to take away food

                                without notice if found not obeying the rules. Thank you. 

….                                                                                                                                                    ….

                                 If you have any difficulties in any of the rules written, 

                                 please refer to our authorities concerned. We shall be

                                 very glad if visitors could support us with any ideas to 

                                 ensure the rules. Thank you. 

….                                                                                                                                                    ….

                                 Please do not place fresh flowers near any window

                                 to avoid flowers from falling down. Do not place

                                 the job-sticks in the building. Strictly attention

                                 to all Catholics, please be informed that praying with white

                                 candles is not allowed. Thank you.

….                                                                                                                                                    ….

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