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Buddhist temple celebrates ancestors with Obon Festival

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The sound of Taiko drums echoed through the Perry District this weekend, each beat sending a message of thanksgiving to those who have gone before us.

For the first time in two decades the Spokane Buddhist Temple hosted an Obon Festival, a traditional Buddhist holiday honoring the spirit of one’s ancestors.

The festival is celebrated in July or August in most temples across the globe, explained the Rev. Christine Marr.

A new member who worshiped in a California community for several years is credited for bringing the event back to Spokane.

“We were already doing the more somber side by remembering our ancestors during a cemetery service,” Marr said. “This is the celebrating we’re alive part, thanking our ancestors.”

Not only did the fest include children’s games, cultural food and temple tours, Spokane Taiko — a Japanese drumming circle — performed traditional music throughout the event.  Their rhythms lured neighbors and passersby to the temple’s green.

More than 100 people of various faiths and ages attended the event, encourage temple board members to announce that the Obon Festival would become an annual occurrence.

It concluded Sunday with Odori (dancing), which is a dance of joy, paying tribute to forbearers.  Temple members practiced for weeks learning the dances, and invited everyone to join in.

View a photo album of this event on our Facebook Page.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of FāVS.News, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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