In Nepal, Christmas is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike, just as it is in the United States. This year, the Nepali government also announced a national holiday on Christmas Day. Although it had been recognized as a national festival after Nepal was declared a secular state in 2007, the festival was scrapped as a national holiday in April 2016, and the holiday applied only to Christian civil servants. However, after strong objection from the Christian community, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), again, declared the day as a public holiday on December 24th.
I, and other youths like myself, grew up watching Christmas movies in the early 2000s. During this time of the year schools were closed for winter vacation and most kids would be glued to their television sets. Movie channels would repetitively broadcast movies like ‘Home Alone’ and ‘The Grinch.’ However, celebrations were only limited to watching cinema. Now, the context has changed. Christmas and New Year’s are some of the most anticipated events of the year. Families go out for dinners, and friends gather for barbeques. The culture is growing with each passing year. Some families share gifts. Games such as ‘Secret Santa’ are starting to become popular.
Christmas and other festivals have given opportunities to restaurant businesses to organize events and add clients. Christmas-themed parties are organized in most restaurants during this time. Events such as these have helped restaurants to expand. Numerous restaurants have been opening to cater to public demand. For example, in Baluwatar, where our office is located, there were only a few restaurants until recently. Now there is a lot of competition. A line of restaurants have opened where before only a motorcycle workshop existed.
The most popular malls in the city put up Christmas decorations. Bhatbhateni is a supermarket with multiple locations in Nepal. The company puts up large Christmas trees and Christmas decorations in all of their locations with much fanfare. Businesses have also started giving discounts on products during Christmas and New Year’s.
Missionaries arrived in Nepal in 1950, and now about three hundred thousand people are Christians, according to the census of 2011. Federation of Nepalese Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) estimates the number of churches across the country to be over 8500. Churches in Nepal usually organize prayers on Saturdays since the weekday begins on Sunday.
Nepal is a Hindu dominated country. During the Nepali festivals of Dashain and Tihar, most restaurants are closed because families conduct Pooja (religious ceremony) in their homes. Families cook their meals at home and celebrate. Nepali festivals are also mostly family affairs. Friends hardly get a chance to celebrate amongst themselves. In my case, Christmas is a good occasion for friends to gather and celebrate. Perhaps increasing exposure to cultures of the West is the reason for this connection. Easy access to the internet and communications has helped in understanding cultures foreign to ours. Christmas has taken a special place in Nepali culture.
In the years to come, anticipation for Christmas will grow. 2017 is almost here, and most of us are planning parties and celebrations for the New Year. I hope it be will be a year to build deeper connections between cultures. Happy New Year!