December 8th is the day that some followers of Buddhism celebrate the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment. Siddhartha Gautama, who would later become the Buddha, was a prince from Nepal who would leave his wealthy family in search for the meaning of life. After spending six years living the life of an aesthetic (which is a branch of philosophy dealing with the appreciation of the nature of art and beauty) and serving under six teachers, he still did not find what we was searching for. Siddhartha vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until he had his answers. He fasted and meditated under the tree for a week, and on the morning of the eighth day he came to several realizations which were to become the principles of Buddhism. In all the pages I saw during my research for this post there was mention of Siddhartha meditating and watching Venus rising when we discovered "The Noble Eightfold Path" and "Four Noble Truths." After this Siddhartha was referred to as Buddha, "The Enlightened One."
Several sites that I looked up said that beginning on Bodhi Day, trees are decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with beads to symbolize the way things are united, and hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the Three Jewels- The Buddha, The Dharma and Sangha, Candles are lit for eight days starting on Bodhi day to symbolize the days of meditation leading to Buddha's enlightenment. Since we do a Christmas tree in our house it seemed like a good idea to tie this holiday in with our existing tradition. Stringing beads to make garland seemed like a nice idea, but instead of beads we used cranberries, just like my family used to do when I was a kid minus the popcorn. So an old tradition from my childhood has found it's way into my house again but this time with a Buddhist lesson. It was even nicer then usual doing this craft with the kids because my mom is here visiting so she got to do the craft with all of us!
All you need for the craft is cranberries, a needle, and thread. We threaded the needle and poked it through a cranberry and then tied the end around the cranberry for our base. We then threaded as many cranberries as we could fit on the thread. At the end, we tied a knot and then my oldest and I hung out Bodhi day "garland" on our tree.
A traditional food to be consumed on Bodhi day is rice and milk, because it was said to have been offered to the Buddha to help him regain his strength after his Enlightening meditation. We did a take on this by making rice pudding, original recipe here. My middle child was much more enthusiastic about cooking with his Nana here- so he showed off his skills in the kitchen and it turned out so well!
- 2 1/2 cups of whole milk
- 1/3 cup of uncooked short grain rice (we used brown but white would work well too)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
- raisins (your desired amount)
Bring the milk, rice and salt to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes. I had to stir the rice almost continuously because the milk would keep bubbling up if I stopped for more then 30 seconds.
In a mixing bowl whisk together the egg and brown sugar. Then add the rice mixture a tablespoon at a time to the egg mixture. Be sure to stir it in well with each scoop.
Put the mixture back into the saucepan and stir on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. If the consistency of your pudding is not thick enough you may heat longer, for us our pudding was too thick so we thinned it out a little at the end. Then remove from heat and add vanilla, cinnamon, and raisins.
This rice pudding was a little tedious with all the stirring, but it was so, so, so tasty! We will definitely be making this again.
Our first Buddhist holiday was a hit, I hope you enjoyed it too and thanks for reading!