Listen my children and you shall hear of the story of Daikoku the Buddhist Santa Claus…
A long, long time ago, in a place so far away, there lived 7 gods of fortune : each has his own blessings for people, they are:
- Hotei, the fat and happy god of abundance and good health
- Jurōjin, god of longevity with a tall forehead
- Fukurokuju, god of happiness, wealth and longevity
- Bishamonten, god of warriors in fighting uniform
- Benzaiten(Benten-sama), goddess of knowledge, art and beauty, especially music
- Ebisu, god of fishers and merchants, often seen carrying
……… and finally there was Daikoku-ten, god of wealth, dressed in his red hat, carrying a large bag on his back full of goodies, standing on two bales of rice, and holding a huge magical mallet. When Daikoku strikes something with his magic money mallet money and toys amazingly appear.
The huge bag on his shoulders is full of presents and gifts. Long ago Daikoku would give these gifts to children on New Year’s Day … nowadays he gives his gifts on December 25th …. just like Santa.
This is how we celebrate:
- The kids write their wish list to Daikoku and place the lists in the family butsudan.
- When Daikoku takes the lists he always leaves some candy.
- On the evening of December 24, the kids leave fresh mochi cakes on the offering stand in the butsudan, light incense and then chant for Daikoku to come to their house.
- Just like Santa, Daikoku arrives when the children are sleeping. He leaves presents from the huge bag on his back and leaves more hard candy.
Later, on New Year’s Eve, Daikoku will visit the Temple. The kids of the Temple chant “Namu myoho renge kyo” as they beat on the hand drums called uchiwa taiko. The drumming and chanting will guide Daikoku to the Temple and someone will upon his arrival guide him to his chair. (Sometimes Ebisu attends as well)
As each child bows in gassho and approaches, Daikoku will give him / her a special present. When everyone has received a gift, Daikoku will present a little dharma talk encouraging the kids to be compassionate toward others and not greedy.
Then the children appreciate his kindness and again chant “ Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” as Daikoku leaves to visit another temple. As he says goodbye he tosses a bag of candy to each child.
This is how Buddhist’s can celebrate Daikoku-ten’s visit each year. It has become a very wonderful and memorable tradition here at Choeizan Enkyoji Temple in Seattle. Please feel free to use this celebration in your family and temples.