Saturday, December 6, 2014

Almsgiving Checklist/Schedule

Checklists and schedules are useful things.  They enable us to plan in advance and organize an activity or an event.  With a checklist, one doesn't have to remember every little detail or worry about forgetting to do X, Y, or Z.  Over the years, I've developed a fairly detailed checklist for the almsgiving preparations and a schedule.  Every year, I update this checklist/schedule for that year's event.

Almsgivings are religious ceremonies and somewhat ritualized.  There are certain things that are done to convey respect (like covering the chairs the monks will sit on, with white cloth).  Traditionally, the monks carry their begging bowls with them, to almsgivings, but we also offer them plates, should they prefer.  The actual meal is served to the monks.  Monks are required to accept whatever is offered to them, but there is a custom of covering their begging bowls or plates with their hand to signify that they have sufficient.

Almsgivings are held in temples, as well.  But I prefer to hold it in my home, as I feel it blesses my home.  The monks bring with them a reliquary from their temple and place it at the home altar and, for the duration of the almsgiving, my house becomes a temple.  A blessed place.

 2014 Almsgiving Checklist & Schedule:

- Set date/invite monks/invite participants (November) - DONE

Week 1 (Dec. 1-7):
- Decide on donations/get them ready
- Make menu/check supplies/make grocery list
- Check supplies (non-grocery)/make shopping list
- Check table linen, chair covers, etc., wash if needed, iron, etc.
- Shop for non-perishables

Week 2 (Dec. 8-14):
- Cook ahead and freeze: cashews, garbanzos
- Make homemade candies
- Confirm date with monks
- Remind invitees; share menu/assign dishes

Week 3 (Dec. 15-20)
- Start cleaning the house (Dust/vacuum/tidy living room, dining area, family room, kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms)
- Rearrange furniture - sofas, coffee tables, tall round side table (for reliquary), trolley (for plates of offerings), remove blue & white vases near fireplace (so I can set the small sofa in front of the fireplace)
- Grocery shop for perishables
- Make yogurt (Thursday)

- Buy flowers (or pick from garden, if there are any)
- Take down dishes used only for almsgiving and wash them

Friday, Dec. 19:

- Grocery shop
- Clean bathrooms/set out guest towels, etc.
- Set out items needed for the transfer of merit: teapot, cup, and water basin; fill teapot with water
- Take out chair covers, table cloths, napkins, etc.; cover chairs, tables
- Candles/incense sticks & holder; lighter/matches
- New bottle of water for blessing; bowl to catch drips when blessed water is poured out
- Set out items for washing hands: fresh cake of soap, hand towels, jugs & basins
- Put previously cooked and frozen cashews and garbanzos to thaw
- Make flan/pudding
- Bake cake/brownies if being made
- Clean kitchen
- Take out plates, bowls, etc. for guests

Saturday, Dec. 20 (Day of Almsgiving):

- Arrange flowers in vases
- Cut up fruits and arrange in saucers; cover
- Arrange a variety of sweets (candy, cookies, cake, etc.) in saucers; cover
- Dish out yogurt into bowls; cover
- Pour palm treacle into sauce boat (to be served over yogurt)
- Dish out flan/pudding, cover
- Cook rice (2 types - white and red)
- Make salad
- Warm up curries; dish out into smaller serving dishes for serving to monks; bigger serving dishes for guests (keep bigger dishes in oven to keep warm)
- Make soup/keep warm in slow cooker
- Serve up offerings to the Buddha and offerings for the Order of Monks
- Boil water and keep in thermos for those monks who prefer hot water
- Pour water and juice into glasses
- Spot clean bathrooms

10:30 a.m. - Everything should be done and ready; guests arrive and their contributions added to offerings to the Buddha and the Order of Monks

11:00 a.m. - Monks arrive; Offerings to Buddha, Order of Monks, etc. take place and service begins with devotions being recited.

11:30 a.m. - Lunch is served to the monks

12:00 noon - Monks finish their lunch, plates are cleared, a sermon is said, blessings are chanted, merit gained from almsgiving is transferred to departed loved ones, donations are presented to the monks.

1:00 p.m. - the monks leave, the religious ceremonies are concluded, lunch is served to all those who participated.

Followed by washing up and cleaning and putting things away until the next time!   My family and friends usually help me with the washing up and putting away the food and putting the furniture back in place.

And there you have it!  My almsgiving checklist and schedule. 

Do any of you do something similar? 


  1. How interesting to read all about the ways in which you prepare your home and food for this ceremony. I love that you feel (rightly) that your house is blessed with each almsgiving that you host. Our house was blessed with a home Eucharist when we first moved here years ago, but that was a simple event with a few friends as well as the rector, and we had tea and cakes afterwards.


    1. The previous owners of my house had attached a mezuzah to the front door post. I have never removed it, because I feel that it's another blessing upon this house.


Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. Your comments are much appreciated. Please comment in English. Thank you.