For Buddhists, especially those living in the western world, the holidays are a time of year when they’re often asked if they celebrate Christmas. While it might seem like the answer is obvious, in reality the two faiths are more connected than people realize. Their relationship goes back centuries, and the Christmas season has always been quite compatible with Buddhist beliefs. In the United States many practicing Buddhists celebrate Christmas in some form.
Christmas, especially if you grew up in the West, goes beyond its original importance as a religious holiday. People of many different faiths, and even no faith at all, celebrate the holiday. It seems to be everywhere you go from Thanksgiving until New Years. Many of its traditions have become somewhat separate from religion. While churches may be the most popular organizers of charitable movements during Christmas time, the general drive to give back during the month of December is felt by those of every faith. There is a sense of conclusion as the year comes to an end, and people are motivated to give back and start their new year off in a positive way.
While the consumer aspects of Christmas go against Buddhist teaching, the spirit of Christmas is completely compatible. Buddhists easily take part in it, focusing on helping the needy and giving back to others. The Christmas season presents an opportunity to spend time with people of many different faiths, working side by side to do good.
Buddhism is not monotheistic, and as such does not put much emphasis on a single God or creator. Buddha himself is not a god. Christianity believes in one God made up of a holy trinity, and that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. While Buddhists do not believe he is God, they have traditionally held Jesus in high regard. Much of what he taught is very compatible with Buddhist teachings. He is considered a “Bodhisattva” - a Sanskrit word given to those who give up their own comfort in order to help those in need, and live a life of self-sacrifice. The book “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh is an excellent book that looks at how Jesus and Buddha might have viewed each other’s spiritual beliefs. For Western Buddhists who grew up in traditionally Christian households it’s an excellent read.
Buddhists also celebrate their own important holiday on December 8th. Bodhi Day celebrates Buddha achieving enlightenment beneath a bodhi (fig) tree. In many Buddhist homes a fig tree is decorated in lights to commemorate this event. Fig trees are not always easy to get ahold of in places like the U.S., and some Buddhists use fur trees instead. For the entire month of December special meals are shared with families and cookies baked in the shapes of hearts (the shape of fig leaves) are given out to loved ones and neighbors. Gift giving is a good deed and spreads the positivity of the holiday.
In Thailand, where 90% of the population is Buddhist, it might seem surprising to see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas songs playing in places like shopping centers. In reality, this open acceptance of a Christian celebration makes total sense within the Buddhist faith. Tolerance is a foundation of Buddhist beliefs. Understanding that people have different views, and accepting that completely, is necessary for any practicing Buddhist.
Additionally, the Thai people know how to celebrate! Any opportunity to take part in festivities is welcomed. They might not believe in Christmas as a religious day, but they can always have a good time. Some of this comes from the Thai concept of “sanuk,” basically meaning enjoyment, that defines Thai culture.
Buddhists strive to achieve Enlightenment and end the cycle of rebirth. Christians work to follow Christ’s teachings and the rules of the Bible in order to reach heaven. Buddhism is about inner reflection, while Christianity is about a God outside of oneself. However, both faiths advocate for very similar paths to achieve these goals: humility, charity, kindness, and selflessness. There are major differences, but they share the most basic principles. In the end, doing good brings happiness and positivity to people of all beliefs. Christmas is a wonderful time to be reminded of this. The diversity of its celebration makes it truly special!
Do you have a special way you celebrate Christmas? Do you incorporate other faiths or ideas? What does the spirit of Christmas mean to you?
All of us here at Hippie Pants hope that you have a wonderful, blessed holiday season! We hope that the goodness of the Christmas spirit inspires you this year to live life compassionately, not just in December but every day!
The holiday season is upon us, which means that it’s once again time for the frantic gear-up to Black Friday and the ensuing Christmas shopping chaos. Everybody handles this time of year differently - for some the competition over the best deals and the midnight lines for super sales are a yearly highlight. Other people like to pretend it’s not happening at all. Many prefer to lurk online for sales opportunities, avoiding the insane midnight doorbuster crowds at all costs.
At Hippie Pants we’re asked each year if we plan to do any kind of special Black Friday sale. As a company we strongly believe that our prices should be fair to everybody involved. That means that we’re looking out for both our consumers and our producers. To maintain our standards we can’t offer steep discounts.
We love getting sales, and we work very hard to make sure that people love our products. We are so honored to hear back from customers who love their pants. However, we will never aggressively push promotions or encourage people to overconsume. It goes against everything we stand for.
We live in a capitalist society, and companies like ours are a part of that ecosystem. Consumerism, on the other hand, is not something we wish to be a part of. Consumerism pushes people to buy and buy. It has led to a huge reduction in quality goods and fueled the rise of abuse in the garment industry. Consumerism has created our present-day Black Friday, with stores now opening on Thanksgiving morning, depriving their employees of important family time. The same goes for online sales. Behind every big online blowout there are people working countless overtime hours during the holidays.
Our business is built on sustainability. We’re a holistic company through and through. We have many hardworking employees making our clothes in Thailand, and we pay them fair wages for reasonable hours. We’ve been growing steadily since we started, and it’s our slow growth model that allows us to maintain that sustainable production style. Huge single-day promotions make that impossible.
We aren’t calling out any specific companies for their Black Friday promotions. There’s been a huge pushback recently to reduce promotional periods and give people back their holiday time. We’ve seen major retailers slowing things down. This is all because there are so many consumers out there who are concerned about the ethical implications of Black Friday. They’ve been demanding better practices. We want you to know we’re with you.
To stay true to our values and business style Black Friday doesn’t make much sense for us. We know that our customers buy our products because of our commitment to ethical, quality clothing. We’re going to continue to provide that. It’s up to all of us to stick to our values to promote positive change in the industry.
Our promise to you is this: our prices will always be fair. Not just on special occasions. Our 2017 consumer prices are exactly the same as they were in 2016. We never add any extra fees at checkout for shipping or choice of payment method. We are committed to maintaining a happy balance between fair trade and fair prices. We’ve built all that in to the prices we show you on every item page. We want you to be able to access our products no matter where in the world you live!
We don’t doubt that our customers understand why we aren’t participating in Black Friday, but we felt it was important to explain our stance and hopefully provoke some thought on this yearly event. Have a happy holiday season!
When traveling in a different country, one should always try to familiarize ourselves with some basics around the culture. Cultural differences will always exist, but you can try to avoid accidentally offending someone by learning some fundamentals.
The most common gesture you'll see in Thailand is hands held together in front of the chest. You'll see this whenever someone says hello, goodbye or thank you to you. “Wai” is a gesture of respect, politeness and gratitude. The higher and closer the hands are to the face and the lower the bow, the more respect is being shown.
Respect is important in Thai culture, as you'll see. For example, sitting above an older person can be considered rude, as is pointing at someone with your finger. If you need to do so try to gesture with your whole hand.
Also important in Thailand is to never point your feet at someone or at a Buddha statue, as the feet are considered dirty. Do not put your feet on desks, chairs and so on. Shoes should be taken off before entering temples (wats) and some houses or stores.
Additionally, never touch someone's head, as the head is considered holy. In general Thai culture is not a very touchy-feely one, so do not go around touching people you do not know. Hugging, kissing and even handshaking is very uncommon when greeting someone in Thailand.
In general you should use your right hand for handing things to people, gesturing and so on, as the left hand can be considered dirty (traditionally it was considered the hand to be used for “toilet functions”).
Standing around with your hands on your hips can also be seen as impolite, as it indicates impatience. When you are waiting for a shopkeeper try to remember to keep your hands by your sides. When paying, try to straighten out the bills before handing them to the shopkeeper.
As in many other cultures, staring at people is considered rude and should be avoided. Direct, prolonged eye contact can also be seen an impolite and intimidating and should therefore be avoided.
A gesture of a circle with the thumb and index finger (commonly known as the “OK sign”) is a sign of understanding. The V sign or victory sign (making a V with your middle and index fingers) is similar to Western countries, indicates winning, cheering or success.
Putting your thumb, index finger and little finger up with your palm facing away from you indicates “I love you”. Similarly, putting your thumbs and index fingers together in the shape of a heart in front of your heart/chest also indicates love or sympathy.
Placing your palms together on your lap, on top of each other with your thumbs touching, is the gesture of “samadhi” and is the way many Thai monks in Theravada Buddhism meditate (as opposed to hands on the knees popularized in many images).
Hopefully this guide will make you feel a bit more comfortable traveling in Thailand. Like our Facebook page or Pinterest for more on Thailand and Thai culture and customs.
Religion has always been part of the everyday life of the Thai people so it’s little wonder about 95% of the population follows Theravada Buddhism, which is the official religion of the country. It has as its basis the teachings of Buddha, who is also known as “the enlightened” or “nee Siddhartha Gautama.”