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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Buddhist Christmas Tree

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Japanese people began migrating to Alberta in the early 1900s. Many settled in the Lethbridge region. And, like other people who've come to a new land, they've incorporated new rituals into the old Buddhist traditions they've brought with them.

David Goa studies myth, symbols and rituals in human culture. One Christmas he visited the home of a Japanese Buddhist friend in Raymond, Alberta. And, in his friend's living room, he found what looked ever so much like a Christmas tree. His friend explained.

"This tree is really the Bodhi Tree, David. It is the tree of Buddha's enlightenment, and so, while Christians in the community are doing Christmas, we also take account of the fact that the Tree of Enlightenment was significant, and we bring it into our home. And since gifts are common in this society, I tell my children and the children in our community that the giving of gifts is a wonderful thing. This is taught by Buddhism as well, so we participate in this."

Like other religions and cultures, the Buddhists have a mid-winter celebration - theirs is the Feast of Enlightenment.

And, also with the Buddhist tradition, there are marvellous stories about the miracle of birth, in this case surrounding the birth of the Buddha.

As David Goa remarks, all religious traditions are layers, drawing their richness and life from those which came before.

My sense is that when we look at these issues in our own day at the end of the 20th century, in the lives, in various religious communities, we see them, not only honouring what they received from the past in their tradition, but we also see them making it ever-new by giving it shape and form in the contemporary world.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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