Sunday, December 23, 2012

Buddhist Christmas: A very Zen Xmas

Seth Auberon, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly, based on Billy Hammond (
Scandinavian shaman Santa brings mushrooms in a sack for everyone to dry in stockings.
Duncan Royale Hotei-Osho: Zen Xmas dates back only about a century in Japan, but in the past 40 years, festivities have grown to enormous proportions (
Mary's Xmas Museum (Kevin Dooley/flickr)
Xmas in Japan is becoming more and more like the business-holiday celebrated in nominally Christian countries.
China, Russia, and parts of the geopolitical Middle East have greedily and unofficially embraced capitalism. So Xmas couldn't be far behind.
"Electronics for all!" (AP)
In Buddhist Japan, less than 1% of the population is Christian. But like most Buddhist countries, the majority is tolerant of all faiths, particularly Shinto, Taoism, Confucianism, and Mahayana-Hinduism. 

And asymmetrically sex-positive Japan is a great lover of festivals and celebrations, including the best the West has to export.

December 25th is not yet a national holiday. But December 23rd, the emperor's birth date, is. 
The Zen-Shinto majority is not waiting for an "official" holiday. They're celebrating the commercial way like the rest of the world.
Gasshō. Season's Greetings!
But Xmas Eve is celebrated in a most backward way: eating an Xmas cake, which the family patriarch purchases on his way home from work. Or the matriarch will if, which is not unlikely, dad has to work. Ebeneezer Scrooge is alive and well in workaholic Tokyo.
And a cake is not the only thing Bob Cratchit is picking up on his way home. In a grotesque perversion of Western values, the most Xmassy thing Japanese can think to do in homage to the West is picking up a bucket of KFC. Yuck. But it's corporate tradition. 
Moving "cake" by all means (Kevin Dooley)
It's as American as Mc D's and high-priced consumer electronics.
Stores all over carry versions of the cake and bucket, prices drop, and they sell out by the 26th.
This has resulted in a rather interesting expression. Young girls are referred to as Xmas Cakes -- marriageable until their 25th birthday but requiring heavy discounts thereafter.
In recent years, thanks to the marketing prowess of the Colonel, KFC's dead chicken dinner has become popular.
Save the birds. We influence everyone. Eat Tofurky!
Many Japanese make reservations for their Xmas bird in a bucket ahead of time. Or they line up at outlets to pick up their orders. As a result of the chicken conglomerate's advertising campaign, most Japanese now think Westerners celebrate this way.

Of course, why limit it to dead birds? There's a dead savior, too.
He, like another Jew few think of as Jewish, gets lost in translation.

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