Nan Tien Temple is a Buddhist complex on the outskirts of Wollongong and each year it holds a cultural festival between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, bringing people together through a range of performing arts and activities.
Now you don't have to be a Buddhist to enjoy the temple and this festival but you will certainly get an insight into the peace, calm, enlightenment and wisdom of Buddhism. All are welcome at Nan Tien, known for its meditation classes and Buddhist retreats held throughout the year, and my visit last year had me thinking that if I had the choice of a religion at birth, knowing what I know now, then it would be Buddhism. A focus on meditation towards bliss and happiness, de-clutter of your world and mind are all essential to your health and inner peace, no matter where your origins lie.
The grounds of Nan Tien are beautiful in themselves with stone Buddhas, a lotus pond and quaint bridges, whilst grandeur architecture is found in the temple, the shrines and an 8-storey pagoda. A giant Peace bell and drum, a museum, meditation hall, cafe and more, add to the spiritual experience.
Whilst Buddhists don't celebrate Christmas, they do celebrate a time of sharing and the New Year. During the festival, Nan Tien comes alive with an abundance of colourful lanterns in red and gold hanging amongst greenery, along with larger lanterns of Buddhas and the Chinese zodiac animal of the year. Last year it was the pig, with a number of beautiful lanterns representing this laid back animal. This year is the Year of the Rat and I imagine they will showcase this industrious and thrifty creature in a colourful display.
Bringing further colour are the market and craft stalls, a smoking pond, art exhibitions, a vegetarian food fair, the Wishing Tree and the Happy Buddha. Tea ceremonies also take place as well as workshops, making it educational as well as fun.
In the afternoon, music and graceful dancers in colourful costumes are a highlight as are drummers and manly displays of martial arts and swordsmanship. On New Year's Day, the lion dancers weave their way through visitors mimicking a lion's movements to bring good luck and fortune.
Entry is free to this event that is a day trip or weekend getaway from Sydney. Nan Tien has its own onsite accommodation in Pilgrim Lodge with 100 rooms that overlook the gardens and lotus pond, the peaceful temple, the rolling hills and the escarpment of the Illawarra. It's also only 10minutes south of Wollongong city and the beaches.
So broaden your horizons, bring your family and friends, and be inspired with so much on offer.