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A merry day indeed

Published On: December 20, 2019 09:49 AM NPT By: KUMUDINI PANT

“Even though Christmas comes at a very gloomy time of the year, it’s one of my favorite days to celebrate,” says Sneha Koirala, owner of the lifestyle brand Studio Sarcastic. “I grew up in a convent school. And since childhood, I have always viewed this day as a festival. We weren’t allowed to visit homes during this time. But Christmas always arrived after our exams were over and when it was time to have fun.” She adds. “It doesn’t have the traditional or cultural aspects of other Nepali festivals; there’re no rules or rituals. But that didn’t take away from its preciousness.”

Like Koirala, for a lot of Nepalis, Christmas has always held a certain unbeatable charm. Whether it’s the strange, catchy jingles or the idea of an old man in a red costume, running around in a sledge pulled by reindeers, sending gifts down the chimney, the day marking Christ’s birthday is a sight to see in this valley. 

Koirala further adds that there are no rituals or specific ways to celebrate this day. Which seems to be one of the reasons why it’s such a big festival among youths. With Christmas trees decorations being sold at every gift shop, playing Secret Santa among colleagues, and decked up malls, it looks like we have created our own version of Christmas with less history and all the fun.

Sachhyam Man Singh Pradham, business studies student, agrees. “The way I see it, it’s just an occasion for people to meet up and get drunk.” He adds that he always celebrates the festival with his family.

It isn’t rare to see corporate malls and buildings being decorated with lights and trees for Christmas either. The festival gives them an incentive for marketing. And, of course, with marketing comes a lot of offers for customers.

Aakriti Kapali, intern at Anweshan, confesses that all of the Christmas discounts give her an excuse to shop some more. But saving money on sale isn’t the only reason why Kapali enjoys this day some much. “During Nepali festivals, we are usually obligated to celebrate with our family and relatives. But on Christmas we get to meet up with friends. There are many parties and events happening all over the city and getting to party with my buddies is the highlight of every Christmas,” she says.

Kapali isn’t the only one who enjoys visiting different places on Christmas day. Divya Bhatt, a social worker at Daya Foundation, says, “Restaurants at Thamel have a lot of discounts on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I go there to celebrate with my friends and exchange gifts through our Secret Santa.” This year, however, she wants to help out at the church with Christmas tree decorations and dress up as Santa Claus.

Another event that takes place on Christmas is performances of various dramas regarding the birth of Jesus Christ by Christian communities. Koriala mentions that seeing these dramas is a highlight of her Christmas celebrations. “I love reading myths about Santa Claus, his adventures and history. They’re as entertaining as Nepali folktales,” Koirala says. 

Christmas is also described as the holiest day of Christian churches. As a result, there are masses, events and plays being conducted in these religious institutions. However, as with the trend of blending cultures and traditions, we Nepalis don’t limit charity to just churches.

As with Bhatt, people engaged in social welfare seem to have a totally different mindset on Christmas. 

For Hishila Maharjan, social worker and student at St. Xavier’s College, Christmas is all about having fun and spreading love. She is planning to volunteer at Bal Sarathi, a social organization that educates children who live in slums. “Rather than buying them expensive items, I’ll give them home-crafted gifts and teach them to make Christmas cards and to bake,” she explains.

However, this enthusiasm isn’t contagious. Ujagar Thapaliya, another business studies student, considers Christmas celebration to be optional. “Some years I go out with my friends and have a nice time. Other years, I simply stay at home. It depends on my mood, what situation I am in. I have no objection to it. But I don’t meticulously plan my day around the festival either,” he says.

And finally, we have Pratik Khanal, founder of Youth Association and CodeBit, who gives The Week a religious perspective on the day. “Being a Hindu, I feel bad about missing Dashain or Thiar. But if I happened to miss Christmas, it doesn’t have the same impact. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Christmas. The songs are right, it is one of the most wonderful time of the year.” He continues. “I like how lively this festival is. It’s peaceful. Soothing. So many houses and trees are decorated with lights. It changes the entire vibe of the city. Even though I don’t believe in Santa Claus or his reindeers, I immensely enjoy the fact that it gives us reasons to celebrate life.”

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