About Children's Day Shrines

based on an article by Mary Goodman

The Shambhala community has, over the years, adopted a tradition of celebrating the changes of season. Thse special days of celebration are called nyida days - from nyima ("sun") and dawa ("moon"). Nyida days occur on or near the days of the spring and autumn equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices.

While all four nyida days are regarded as family-oriented occasions, the winter holiday, Children's Day, provides a special opportunity to express appreciation for and with our children. At a time when the weather begins to bear down upon us and we feel the drab grey walls creeping in, we turn to family in celebration, creativity, and generosity.

At the heart of the Children's Day festivities is the shrine, the representation of the dignity of the family, the joy and creativity of the youthful heart, and the celebration of the senses. Decorating the shrine is a family project, with special contributions from the children. This is their time to join heaven and earth. And, as is the way with children, imagination and resourcefulness allow the fun to go on for days, as the shrine evolves and becomes more elaborate. Following are a few suggestions regarding this delightful practice.

First of all, begin to build your shrine as early as possible. The shrine can become the main focal point for indoor play for days or weeks. The shrine structure itself should be tiered - three tiers is suggested. A household Shambhala shrine could be refashioned, or a table placed beneath the fireplace mantle. The shrine structure may be covered in any of the Shambhala colours: white, orange, red, blue. White satin seems to be the usual shrine covering.

One parent suggests placing a large mirror behind the shrine, surrounded by green boughs and twinkling white lights. In this way the mirror provides an element of expansion, the greenery enlivens the atmosphere, and the lights bring a special touch of magic.

The central focus of the Children's Day shrine are the King and Queen. These may be special china dolls or statuary, or conceivably even standing paper dolls. These should be placed on the highest tier of the shrine, as representatives of the heaven element. Along with the King and Queen are placed the sense offerings:

a cloth ribbon (touch)
fruit or sweets (taste)
saffron water (smell)
a conch or musical instrument (sound)
a small mirror (sight).

Animal figurines - stuffed animals or handmade clay or papier mache models - should be placed on a lower tier to represent the earth element. You could explain to your child the significance of joining heaven and earth.

On an even lower tier children may bring other offerings, such as handmade decorations, flowers or potted plants, or homemade cookies. Very special "treasures", such as music boxes, dolls, toys, and collections, could also be included. Streamers, fans, flags, ring chains in Shambhala colours, even animal cookies, could be placed around the shrine and in the surrounding greenery.

The night before Children's Day, the children put out sake and tea offerings and food, usually sweets. After the children have gone to bed, the parents, in turn, put out baskets of gifts for the family. The following day, the family might enjoy sharing Shambhala songs and special stories around the shrine, in addition to exchanging gifts.

Back to Children's Day page
Adapted from About Children's Day Shrines, by Mary Goodman, The Karma Dzong Banner (Vol III, No 11, December 1989, Halifax, Nova Scotia).
Last modified Dec 3, 1995