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Far away from what we might call home, and yet Christmas here still feels like family. Never do I walk in the street without meeting a friend, or feel like a stranger in these streets that are so much like a village to us, full of known places and faces. Without any of the commercialization of Christmas, the Christmas song and advertisement overkill, or any of the family obligations, perhaps somehow even some appreciation of Christmas is born. Celebrating with close friends, thinking of the values Christmas used to represent, I find myself enjoying it, and realize it actually shares a lot with the way Buddhists celebrate holidays: generosity, sharing, charity… and of course, going to see the new Star Wars movie, where many of the remaining RYI students and staff met the day after Christmas. Which goes to show that things aren’t so different here, sometimes… and have become much more like home than strange cities where you never meet anyone you know in the movies by chance.
So despite the cold, the lack of gas and electricity, particularly difficult in this period of blockade, I find myself appreciating Bouddha more than ever, for its steady resilience, and continuing joyfulness, without any of the overwhelming exuberance of Christmas in the West, where comforts are so prevalent that it takes a lot to make any day special. But at a time when just having electricity is exciting, going to see a 3D movie in the theater is quite something.
Next to that, seeing great masters pray every day around the stupa is much more common, however incomparably wonderful. If that is the trade in, we truly got the good end of the bargain.