Celebrating Bodhi Day

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I love learning about other cultures’ and religions’ holidays, so I thought some of my readers would be interested in hearing about a holiday that is important to our family. We are Buddhist. Our friends and family all know this, but it’s not something I often talk about on the blog or online in general, but I did want to share our family’s celebration of Bodhi day.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Bodhi Day is a holiday that celebrates the day that Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. This holiday is celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th month (December 8th on our calendar).

Prince Siddhartha left the luxuries of his life in order to search for the root of suffering, and how to be liberated from it. Siddhartha spent six years living as an ascetic under six different teachers. During this time he was unable to find the answers that he was searching for, so left his practices as an extreme ascetic and vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until he found them. He meditated under the tree for a week and on the 8th day, upon seeing the morning star, he reached enlightenment.

There are many ways to celebrate Bodhi Day, and it generally picks up traditions that are common for the area of the followers. Many use this day for remembrance and meditation. For our Bodhi day traditions we also try to incorporate activities that are interesting and engaging for our children.

Eating Vegetarian

Many Buddhist are vegetarians, but this is not something we practice in our everyday lives. We do however, eat vegetarian on the Buddhist holidays.

Rice and Milk

Rice and Milk is an important tradition for Bodhi day. It’s said that Sujata offered rice and milk (or Rice-Milk, which I am assuming is a mixture of rice and milk) to the Buddha in order to help him regain his strength. For one meal on Bodhi day we consume rice and milk in remembrance of that gesture.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Our Holiday Tree

Many religions incorporate a tree into their holiday traditions this time of year. It all started with the pagans for winter solstice, and was later pick up by the Christians. Generally Buddhist decorate a Bodhi tree with multicolored lights to represent the many paths to enlightenment, but we do not have access to the Bodhi tree and because we celebrate some of the secular traditions associated with Christmas we use an evergreen tree instead.

We talk to Big B about how Buddha was sitting under the Bodhi tree when he reached enlightenment. We explain to him that Bodhi trees are very common in India, so children in India are able to decorate the Bodhi tree. Evergreen trees are common for our area, so it is easier, and makes more sense, for us to use an evergreen.


At the end of the day we light a series of candles at our main Buddha alter. We have three candles set up behind our Buddha. Each one represents one of the Three Jewels; The Buddha, The Dharma (Natural Law), and The Sangha (The Community). As we light the candles we explain what each one means. We have one candle sitting in front of our Buddha. This candle symbolizes enlightenment and is lit each day for 30 days starting on the 8th.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Jewel Craft

I wanted to do a Bodhi Day craft with Big B to represent ‘The Three Jewels.’ We recently did a popsicle snowflake window display. I loved the way they turned out, and I thought doing something similar for our jewel craft would be nice in one of the other windows in our classroom/dinning room. I made three jewel shapes with popsicle sticks and had Big B paint and glitter them. I then put a layer of tissue paper on the back so they would be pretty and colorful when the light shined through.

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

Celebrating Bodhi Day Buddhist Holiday

The Buddha

Finally, PBS has a documentary on the life of The Buddha. Each year we end the night watching this documentary. It’s beautifully made and narrated by Richard Gere.

This is such a wonderful time of year with all of the different holidays. I hope you enjoyed learning about one of the holidays that is so important to us.

3 comments on “Celebrating Bodhi Day

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I’ve been very interested in Buddhism since I finished Buddhism for Mothers- is there a resource you would recommend to learn more about the holidays, especially as they relate to children (I have two daughters, almost 4 and 8). Thank you so much for the excellent food for thought!

    • I loved Buddhism for Mothers. It’s a great book. As far as holidays go, I just did research online. I haven’t come across a book or a really great all in one resource about Buddhist holidays yet, however there are a TON of great Buddhist Children’s books I can recommend. Any of the Stillwater books are great (Zen Ties, Zen Ghosts, Zen Shorts), Buddha at Bedtime, Peaceful Piggy Meditates, Moody Cow Mediates (although this book uses a few words we don’t let Big B use.. like stupid), Peaceful Piggy Yoga, Stone Soup, Harold and Purple Crayon. I am sure I will think of more. These have all been great resources in exposing our children to Buddhism. If you have any questions or need further advice please feel free to email me. One of the most helpful things for us as a Buddhist family has been connecting with other Buddhist families and seeing how they practice and celebrate.

      Also, Zen Mountain Monastery has really great resources.

  2. Pingback: Snowman Family Display | The Freckled Homeschooler

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