One of the reasons that I refer to the month of December as, "the holidays" in America is because it's so much more than Christmas. The Jews celebrate Chanukkah, the Muslims Ashura and many African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa. And, for Buddhists we celebrate the enlightenment of Buddha on this day, December 8th. In honor of his endeavor, many Buddhists spend the day or month in meditation and honor his memory through acts of kindness. Often meat eating Buddhists will buy and release an animal that was in captivity--usually fish.
For this year, I found a great little piece by Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara. It is a great angle on how modern day, average Buddhists can take a moment to celebrate/honor the day despite a hectic schedule and life:
The legend says that as he gazed at the morning star, he said, "How marvelous, I, the great earth, and all beings are naturally and simultaneously awakened." This phrase teaches us the great lesson of interdependence, that we are not separate from all that is, but rather we are interconnected, a piece of the grand whole of the universe. And at the same time, this very piece, this "I" sitting here is an integral and vital component of the whole. When we take care of this "I", we can take care of the whole universe. So, even if we cannot devote a week or a full night but are only able to meditate for a few minutes on Bodhi Day, it can be a reminder of the wisdom that is naturally available to us, the wisdom of cultivating our minds and recognizing our relation to the whole.
James: Each year, on Bodhi day, I sit and picture all the Buddhists in the world and imagine us all together in one place, sitting united to awaken to peace in oneself, and peace in the world as Thich Nhat Hanh says. Then I broaden that picture to include the world and imagine people seeing us all sitting. Then watching them gravitate toward that peaceful energy to just sit with us, regardless of religion; to simply enjoy that moment--together, as a world, as a species, as a planet. It always makes me smile and recharges me for the new year. So, to you, dear reader; I wish you a peaceful Bodhi day and Happy New Year.
~Peace to all beings~