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Holiday season is a sacred time for Buddhists, too


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By BloggerPearce Fujiura

This week many Buddhists are celebrating the Mahayana New Year. However, because it’s from a different cultural tradition than my own, it’s not an event that I celebrate. I am a Japanese Buddhist, specifically Nichiren. My family and I celebrate Shogatsu, which is celebrated at the same time as theWestern New Year. My family has always celebrated Shogatsu by pounding a sweet rice paste, called Mochi, with other members of the Japanese community. We do this using large wooden mallets known as Kine (pronouced Key-neigh) and a large stone mortar called Usu (pronounced oo-sue). The mochi pounding (mochitsuki) is about building community and also about reflecting on yourself and your spiritual awareness. For me, the mochitsuki is not a religious ceremony, but instead marks the end of the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment. In Japan, the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment begins on Dec. 8 and ends 30 days later on Jan. 7. During this time I celebrate the moment that the Buddha obtained enlightenment as well as the many paths to enlightenment that have been found around the world. It is a time to reflect on my own path and the steps that I am making towards finding my own way. I love this time of year because it reveals to me how unique each of our journeys are, yet how they are each valid and correct in their own way. While I may misstep along the way, I am still traveling and growing and learning. This time of year reminds me to celebrate that knowledge and take reverence in the knowledge and path of others. Like many Buddhists, I think that the principle of these celebrations and traditions can easily be understood and practiced by people of all faiths who use the holiday season to reflect on family, self-improvement, embrace, or even celebrate the newness of the moment and of the year.

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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