By Madhava Smullen
Lord Jagannath decorated for the Christmas Parade
Around one hundred devotees from the New Raman Reti ISKCON community participated in the Alachua Christmas Parade on Saturday December 8th, in Alachua, Florida.
Devotees have been part of the parade for the past twenty-five years, sometimes bringing a bullock cart to liven things up.
This year, the parade began at 2pm and lasted about forty-five minutes, running from the beginning to the end of Main Street, Alachua.
All the townspeople turned out for the occasion, packing the sidewalks.
Local community groups such as dance schools and cub scouts, along with small businesses and government organizations were represented with floats in the parade.
“Ours was likely the loudest and most colorful,” grins New Raman Reti temple president Mukhya Dasi.
The Hare Krishna section of the parade included a beautiful red and gold Rathayatra cart carrying lightweight Styrofoam Deities of Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra, carved by master carpenter Akuti Dasi, and painted by gurukuli Mirabai Dasi.
Riding on the cart, worshipping and taking care of the Lord were cart builder Dharmaraja Das and his entire family – wife Radhakund Dasi, son Nitai, and daughters Mirabai and Rati Manjari – who are at the heart of many Rathayatra festivals throughout Florida.
In front of the cart was a Harinama Sankirtan party led by Bhadra Das, broadcasting the Holy Name over a speaker system. From a flatbed trailer beautifully decorated with gold tinsel, Christmas bows and Christmas tree baubles, children from the Bhaktivedanta Academy chanted and waved.
At the head of the party, dancing and chanting devotees carried a beautiful red velvet banner sewn with the gold sequined message “Hare Krishnas Chant for Peace on Earth.”
“Everyone appreciates that message, which is meaningful to anybody of any religion or political party,” says Mukhya.
As the devotees passed the parade judges, the announcer welcomed them, “Oh, it’s the Hare Krishna community!” and said, “We’d like to thank you guys so much for coming to every single parade for so many years.”
People in the crowd, meanwhile, also waved and smiled at the devotees, who passed out over a thousand prasadam cookies marked with labels reading “Happy Holidays from the Hare Krishna Community.” Kids and parents alike were delighted to receive the treats.
According to Mukhya, the devotees themselves were “in bliss” afterwards.
“Who’s not in bliss after Harinama Sankirtana?” she asks, adding, “We live in a little bubble here in Alachua, and sometimes it’s nice to step out of the bubble and see that people actually really like us.”
Participating in the Christmas parade by adding Harinama Sankirtan to it, she feels, will be pleasing to Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada. “This is what they told us to do,” she says. “Go out and chant the Holy Names. Then people hear the chanting and see the devotees looking so colorful and happy, and they think positive things like, ‘These are such happy people.’ Then that opens the door for their spiritual life.”