New Year Traditions of Mahayana Buddhism

Reflection, good luck, and enlightenment
Mahayana Buddhists celebrate New Year in mid-January while other factions like the Japanese Zen celebrate it on December 31.

Mahayana Buddhists celebrate the new year by honoring and praying for Buddha and other deities. Every Buddhist is expected to visit a nearby temple to light candles which are believed to bring happiness and good luck for the commencing year. Songs are sung as an offering to deities while statues of Buddha are washed as a sign of respect.

Mahayana Buddhism is the largest sub-division of the Buddhist religion. Mahayana Buddhists believe enlightenment can be acquired during one’s lifetime. They also believe that not only nuns and monks can achieve it, but also ordinary Buddhists.

As the dominant faith within Northern and Eastern parts of Asia, key traditions in Mahayana Buddhism include Chinese Chan, Nichiren, Pure Land, Korean Seon, Tiantai, and Zen.

On this day, Buddhists meditate and reflect on their life in the previous years with the objective of identifying and correcting any wrongs they may have done as a new year’s resolution. As a belief, they also buy new clothes, decorate the home, and give gifts to beckon good luck. With the festivities, one can never miss sweets and the ceremonial fireworks at midnight.

Japanese Zen

The Japanese Zen celebrations are quite the same but just a bit serious as compared to the Mahayana Buddhists. They also reflect on their past life events with the goal of awakening oneself and making resolutions for the next year. A fire ceremony ensues where the Buddhists write down the negative karma they have accumulated over the years on a piece of paper. They take the paper and toss it into the fire, signifying relinquishment of karma.

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