In the Name of Christ: Celebrating Christmas in Nepal

Merry Christmas but Christ in Kathmandu, for many, has become an excuse for drinking and partying

By Dinesh Wagle on December 25th, 2005 in Wagle’s WebLog

celebrating christmas in nepal

Christmas Eve in Bagbazaar Pic by Wagle

Santa Clauses are roaming around the city of Kathmandu distributing sweets and spreading the message of Christ though loud speakers attached on the vans carrying them. It’s good to see the saints in colorful attire, singing songs and waiving their hands to pedestrians. Just a vehicle passed through the road below as I am typing these lines in Tinkune: Oh.. is that the same Santa whom I saw yesterday in Bagbazaar? How can I say for sure? All Santa are quite same.

When I said its good to see Santa moving around the city, I meant to highlight the religious harmony in Nepali society. There are many Nepali Christians in Nepal and they are all celebrating their biggest festival. Even my non-Christian friends are sending me Christmas wishes and greeting cards. They are greeting me over phone and in face-to-face conversation. I have also said them Merry Christmas! A man grown up in moderate Hindu culture, I find myself respecting all religions that are practiced in Nepal. Though I believe in a Supreme power, I don’t fanatically follow any religion. I am Hindu only when I fill up certain forms and when I can’t associate myself with other religions. There are many people like me in this country.

Greetings From Kathmandu: A boy decorated in Santa Clause outfit in Nepali capital yesterday. Pic by Bikash Karki

Though Nepal is constitutionally the only Hindu country in the world, we Nepalis have equal respect to all other religions. [It’s different thing that some fistful of fundamentalists last year tried to alter that harmony by attacking mosques in Kathmandu and Muslims in different parts of the country.] So we Nepalis don’t hesitate to celebrate all the festivals. But when we do we, we do as part of fashion and trend. Many people don’t even know who the Christ is but they are happy to drink and do masti in His name. (To be honest I also don’t know much about Christianity and Christ. I haven’t read Bible but seen the movie Passion of the Christ. I still doubt I understood the film properly.)

When I see the relationship between religions (tradition) and multinationals, I become a bit agitated. Many be I shouldn’t because this is the world of consumerism. Festivals like Christmas and Tihar are completely commercialized. They are sold and bought. I still remember a report in the New York Times published exactly a year ago that dealt with how closely commercialism and Christmas are associated with each other. Needless to say it’s the season of shopping in the West. [Though I too did shopping yesterday (in fact what I am wearing today is what I bought yesterday: from sweater to socks to pant to thermal vest!), I can say that had nothing to do with Christmas.] But yes, spending is related to festival in Nepail cutlure too. We buy new clothes in Dashain.

But here I am talking about celebrating festival as fashion and whithout understanding it properly. I hate to say that Christmas for many of us is nothing more than a good excuse to drink and, as a result of that, perhaps, brawl. “Today is Chirstman, what’s your plan?” a friend asks a friend. “Jane hoina pinuna? Jamne hoina ta aaja? [“Aren’t we going for drink?”]. Excessive drinking and unnecessary spending in the name of Christ, Christmas (or any other festivals for that matter) has become our standard tradition. In fact, celebrating festivals, especially the one that are ‘imported’ (if I can use that word in this context) from West like Christmas and Valentines’ Day (not to mention our won Father’s Day and Mother’s Day) have become a fashion among elite and upper middle class crowd in Kathmandu. (Ha.. it would be unfair to forget the popular saying Bahun Bigryo Mooj le, Newar Bigryo Bhoj le [Enjoyment corrupts Brahman, Party corrupts Newar]) If you browse through the pages of Kathmandu newspapers, you will find countless advertisement related to Christmas and New Year celebrations. Oh..ya, before I forget, let me add it quickly that at best, for many of us, Christmas is a reason to greet and socialize. So, Merry Christmas!

5 Responses to “In the Name of Christ”

Religious Tolerance Says:
December 26th, 2005 at 2:22 pm

In this cosmopolitan world which is also called global village, it’s not unusual for citizens of one part of the world to celebrate festivals of other parts of the world. But when people from one part of the world try to create control over other part of the world making religion a tool, problem begins right from there. Many in Muslim world believe that America and the West is trying to spread Christianity, endangering their religion and social practices, in the name of democracy.

Even in Nepal, constitution bars forceful religious transformation. But with the backup of money, Missionaries are spreading the Gospels and luring poor people to change their religion. If Nepalis celebrate Christmas on their own will, no one should stop them from doing so. They have right to do so. But changing people’s religion offering them money is the most unholy thing to do and that need strong discourage.

concerned Says:
December 26th, 2005 at 3:49 pm

In Nepal and worldwide Christmas is celebrated because it is a western festival, Santa Claus’s red is Coke’s and Red Label is for the older ones. Why not celebrate Ramadhan next year, and dressing like BinLaden with a Kalashnikov

krishna Says:
December 26th, 2005 at 4:00 pm

ya lets celebrate ID-ul-fitar bakreed also…
while brothers are dying in the war between power centers of KG and maoists… we are creating more oppurtunity for having “FUN”.

sanobahini Says:

December 26th, 2005 at 11:01 pm
religious intolerance, i think you have it backwards. the muslims believe that it is their duty to “kill the infidels” and the infidels means anyone, INCLUDING HINDU, who do not believe the way they do. christians do not do that. and most christians i know in nepal, nepali and otherwise, are doing lots of good works.

i do not have a problem with people celebrating a holiday. i celebrate hannukah with my jewish canadian husband.

but when it is an excuse to party, that is a shame. christmas in western europe is a time to give gifts, be with family and remember those we love. it is a time, if you are christian, to celebrate the greatest peacemaker there ever was, Jesus Christ. it is not a time to get wildly drunk.

but so many young nepalese do not know how to set limits. they get so drunk, they are falling on the floor. there seems no self control. it is sad to see.

by the way, no one offers money to convert. where did you get that crazy idea? obviously you do not know much about christianity. perhaps you might attend a church sometime, there are many in kathmandu now, and see for yourself what they do. you might be quite pleased and surprised.

oh, and there was religious persecution of christians just a few years ago, pre democracy. many nepali christians were jailed and had to practice their religion in secret. it was a sad time. that is not what i call religions tolerance.

maggie

Rohit Says:

December 30th, 2005 at 2:50 pm
Its sad that people in Nepal are celebrating Christmas. It shows that we have lost touch with our own traditions.

The Christians are taking over the middle class and the affluent, and the Muslims are taking over the poor.

The two most violent religions in the world will destroy Nepal more thoroughly than the Maoists can ever hope to.

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