Paramahansa Yogananda began the practice of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ with an all-day meditation with his disciples in 1931. SRF has continued to uphold this blessed tradition with many of our temples and centers around the world conducting all-day meditations.
Following are excerpts from his description of the first all-day meditation held at the SRF International Headquarters in Los Angeles in 1931. You can read the entire description, which appears, along with a revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus, in Paramahansaji’s highly acclaimed commentary on the four Gospels, The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You.
“When Christmas comes, people usually think of buying gifts for their loved ones. A few think of the beauties of Christmas music and church services. Most celebrators revel in the festivity of the Christmas tree, with its glimmering electric ‘stars’ and tinsel and the gaily wrapped gifts beneath its branches. It is good to celebrate the birth of Christ with songs, dinners, and the exchange of gifts; but if material festivity becomes the only purpose of all the Christmas celebration, it is a pity, and nothing of spiritual value is gained….
“The original meaning of religious symbols and holy days is often forgotten. Thus, most people think of Christmas as an ordinary holiday festivity and forget Christ, the master of ceremonies. When used only as an occasion for festivity, the great spiritual significance of Christmas is lost sight of….
“We should rejoice that such a holy being as Christ was given to serve as an ideal of perfection for deluded mankind to follow. Indifferent, unconscious honor shown to him will not do us any good. Christmas should be so observed that it may materially, mentally, and spiritually give us, at the least, a new impetus to start in the Christ-path of truth with the beginning of the new year.
“We did this last year  at the Self-Realization Fellowship Mother Center. A short description of the way we observed Christmas will give some suggestions as to how spiritual people should celebrate the coming Christmas.
“To begin with, we did our Christmas shopping early. Every resident, and all others invited to the Christmas festivity, received a gift. However small in monetary value, it was rich with our love. Everyone in our divine family is considered close to us because of a spiritual tie, which is even stronger than a material tie of compulsion. We are gathered together in the name of our One Father, and have recognized ourselves as His children made in His image.
“We knew that getting dinner for a hundred people, adorning the Christmas tree, and making all the arrangements, would take much time, and that in the din of activity Christ might slip away unnoticed from the altar of our attention. So the day before Christmas we fasted on fruits and suspended all cooking and other preparations for Christmas Day. We sat around the exquisitely decorated Christmas tree and alternately chanted and meditated deeply, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. We ate a supper of fruit and meditated again until 11 p.m. As we retired, many guests, with tears in their eyes, said: ‘We have felt Christ and God today. We never knew before what the deep diving into Cosmic Consciousness meant. Most of us swam on the surface of the sea of silence, but never dived to get the beautiful pearls of God-contact.’
“Christmas morning we began with a meditation, and then the final preparations were completed and the long-looked-for dinner came. After that was the opening of the mystery packages, then a closing meditation and singing until late at night. So it was that our Christmas began in the consciousness of Christ and ended in his Expanded Consciousness.
“With the coming of Christmas, do not let your consciousness sink into the well of turkey dinners, exchange of gifts, dances, festivities, and cocktail parties. A well of material thoughts is not a fit place in which to celebrate Christ’s birthday. Instead, take your consciousness from the confines of mere material festivities and with closed eyes enter the secret door of meditative silence to behold the vast altar of peace spread eternally above, beneath, to the left and to the right, in front and behind, within and without….
“Meditate upon the following: ‘My Christ-Peace is descending upon every living thing, upon every living star, upon every speck of matter and space.’
“Celebrate Christmas upon the altar of the vast inner silence; in the sanctuary of every desire, every living thing in the world, in all the cosmos, celebrate the birth of Christ….”