Although Burma is a predominantly Buddhist country and therefore does not celebrate Christmas in the traditional Christian way, the commercial aspect of Christmas; Santa Claus, reindeers, presents and food, has a certain dominance that overshadows the religious celebrations of even largely Christian countries.
While many Christians believe these kinds of celebrations detract from what they consider to be the true meaning of Christmas, the act of giving gifts, of selflessness and gratitude, is a very important part of Buddhist teachings.
Compassion towards your fellow men is also a fundamental aspect of Buddhism, which Christmas embodies whole-heartedly in the traditions of Christmas presents, carollers, and the serving of food to others on Christmas Day.
The image of Santa Claus has often been likened to that of the Hindu character Pu Tai, a jovial monk who gladly hands out gifts to children from his sack, and there is also speculation over some of the characters from the nativity such as the ‘Three Wise Men,’ who many claim to also have been followers of a type of Buddhism.
It is also a popular Buddhist belief that Jesus was a type of High Bodhisattva, enlightening the people through his preaching and miracles.
Above all, the common Christmas phrase, and extract from Dickens’ classic novel, A Christmas Carol, ‘Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men,’ is a very Buddhist message. Why not wish those in Burma the same good will in the Burmese language!
The story of A Christmas Carol has been described as containing an essential Buddhist message of how compassion and selflessness succeed over greed and wickedness.
The character of Jacob Marley warns Scrooge that he must redeem himself or the same fate will be exacted upon him. The chains Jacob Marley wears, of which he says ‘I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, yard by yard,’ is evidence of how he is now suffering the punishment he brought upon himself, in a very karmic style.
Without the help of the three spirits, which Marley warns is the only solution to Scrooge’s redemption, he will suffer the same fate.
The three spirits of Past, Present, and Future of A Christmas Carol are often likened to the role of bodhisattvas, who present situations which teach Scrooge the law of karma.
To read more about how Christmas is celebrated in Burma, and learn how to wish others a ‘Merry Christmas’ in Burmese, click here.