Holiday gift ideas unlimited

When members of the Kagyu Sukha Choling Buddhist center decided to host an art sale to raise funds for their new meditation center, the holiday season seemed a natural time to sell their collection of largely Buddhist pieces, including temple rubbings, wall hangings and sculptures.

They tapped into a trend that local retailers say is common in Ashland. Among the Christmas tree ornaments, manger scenes and menorahs snatched up by shoppers are Buddhist and Hindu gifts that also sell briskly during the holidays, despite their traditions' lack of gift-giving.

"People will come in and say 'I really want to buy a Buddha for a friend of mine for Christmas,'" said Claudia McAllister, co-owner of the gift shop Horsefeathers of Ashland. "You can be Buddhist and Jewish or Christian. It's more a way of life, not really a religion."

The store carries jewelry, clothing, instruments and a substantial collection of Hindu and Buddhist statues that are strong sellers in December, she said.

"There's a big population of Buddhists in town," she said. "Even though it's a Christian holiday, people do come in."

Just down the street, Soundpeace, which specializes in books, music and spiritual gifts, mostly of the non-Western variety, also sees an uptick in sales during December.

"Christmas is the one holiday that is the most materialistic holiday," said owner Steve Cole. "There are a lot of Buddhist holidays, but the emphasis isn't on presents."

Prayer flags are the number-one seller in the store during the holidays, bought in preparation for the New Year, but Cole attributes other sales to families with children who still celebrate Christmas even if they don't follow other Christian traditions.

"If you have kids, pretty much you have to celebrate Christmas," he said.

Ellen Waldman, who chairs the fundraising committee for the new Buddhist center, said that although she practices Buddhism, her holiday celebration is an eclectic mix of customs that includes a gift exchange.

"We come from different traditions in my family, so we celebrate all of them," she said. "We light the Hanukkah menorah, we have a Christmas tree, and I have a Buddhist mediation practice, so nothing is overlooked."

In Sonam Dolma's Tibet Treasures gift shop, families with members of different traditions are the reason for the Christmas tree in the front window of her shop, displayed next to a Buddhist wall hanging. Dolma's friend, a Buddhist with Christian parents, gave her the tree to display, she said.

Many of her customers this time of year are buying Buddhist wall hangings or statues for Christmas gifts, Dolma said.

"People have all different ideas, you know. Christmas is a Christian religion, not Buddhist or Hindu, but they buy everything," she said. "They buy what they like."

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or

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