Derek, do Taoists celebrate Christmas? Should they? Now that the holiday season has arrived, I am wondering if I should inform my friends and family that, due to my personal belief in the Tao, I will no longer be part of their holiday activities. How would you handle something like that?
In Tao cultivation, our focus is on the way of existence instead of particular forms of religious practice. The Tao is a way of life that focuses on the way of life. As such, it does not conflict with holiday celebrations of any faith or any culture. All of them have a way about them that we can observe and act upon in a mindful manner.
For instance, let’s consider Thanksgiving. People jokingly refer to it as “Turkey Day,” but we know it’s not about eating turkey. The essence of Thanksgiving is gratitude. One of the best ways for us to express that essence is to be together with loved ones and let them know, with our presence, how much we appreciate them. When this expression is present in a harmonious gathering, it doesn’t matter quite so much what everyone is eating. This is why Tao cultivators have all the reasons in the world to participate in a Thanksgiving dinner – their mindful purpose is to celebrate properly, rather than to gorge themselves.
It is the same with Christmas. What is the meaning of Christmas? It is not about frantic shopping sprees or fighting through the crowds at the mall. Like the turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, conspicuous consumption is merely an outward, external manifestation of the material world. The inner, truer essence of Christmas has to do with peace, love, family, friendship and goodwill. Being compassionate and giving to others are great ways for us to express this essence – and by doing so, we honor the Christmas spirit.
So, should those who cultivate the Tao celebrate Christmas? I think the answer should be obvious. In every aspect of life, Tao cultivators look beyond the superficial to tap into the deeper understanding beneath the surface. Thanksgiving and Christmas are no exceptions. We should feel no hesitation at all in enjoying them. We should also celebrate their true meaning, especially since not everyone does nowadays. This is how we can focus on the way of life – and become aligned with the Tao.