Published On: December 23, 2016 05:48 AM NPT By: Priyanka Gurung
Christmas isn’t only in the air around town. Bimala Bhandari’s kitchen has been ringing with carols this past week. The enthusiastic singers happen to be her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year- old son. Her children are apparently preparing for their school’s first festive concert and the self appointed practice sessions in the evening, when they put up a performance for their mother, have clearly become their most exciting time of the day. Even the neighbors attest to getting a little disturbed the squeals, screams and singing but they are letting it slide; it’s Christmas after all.
Indeed it’s that time of the year again when Nepali Christians finally get to their share of celebrations. And although compared to the one billion across the world who observe Christmas Day, Nepal’s 300,000 plus Christian population (2011 statistics) may only be a fraction, the annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ in the country has witnessed a significant spike in scale as well as interest.
|For instance, while Bhandari’s children are looking forward to experiencing their first time being a part of a full-fledged Christmas choir over in another household, Kabita Rongong is expecting to meet around 7000 fellow Christians on the grounds of St. Xavier Schools for their Christmas celebrations. What’s more, these are people from various branches of their Protestant church alone. This steady growth of her church’s congregation over the years has pleasant surprised Rongong as well especially since she remembers a time when hers was the only Christian family in the area.
“It wasn’t even that long ago. Two or so decades ago, the notion of our country being a Hindu country was incredibly prominent. So much so, there were family members from whom we even hid our beliefs and church activities. We didn’t want to agitate them,” says Rongong. So back then, Christmas for her family was mainly a home oriented affair.
Now the contrast of it all serves as a great delight. As per traditions, her church members apparently kicked off the festivities from the beginning of December itself. They have been forming groups and visiting various houses of the members, singing carols and enjoying get togethers. This, she confesses is one of her favorite parts of the festivities and makes for some of the most fond memories of her life.
But among all the music and merriment, Rongong is keen not to forget the spiritual and religious aspects of Christmas either. Its values that she particularly wants to pass down to her son and elders of her church are in agreement as well. In fact, it’s one of the factors that they have been recently focusing on.
Bhai Gopal Maharjan, a photographer who has been volunteering at his church for the last 23 years and is also considered one of the elders, shares his plans to use this festive occasion to remind his 150 plus congregation the reasons that they choose to begin their journey in Christianity in the first place. He has been appointed to speak a day before Christmas and he says he wants to use the time wisely.
While he takes the growing popularity of Christianity among the masses as a positive development, he also thinks it would be unwise to ignore its side effects; the prospect of losing sight of the true essence of their faith.
“Majority of us weren’t born into Christianity, we adopted the faith,” explains Maharjan, “This was the case with me too and we did so because this religion was able to give us better perspective of the important things in life. It helped enrich not only our understanding but our souls too.”
But he also quickly adds that he is well aware how many people have little patience for this kind of talk. Maharajan frankly shares that not only is it difficult to hold his congregations attention sometimes, while on his mission to spread his church’s word he has had many difficult experiences as well. So he partly jokes and partly confesses that, every year, Christmas is the one day he gets to preach without such complains and troubles. Maharjan has been busy picking his favorite verses depicting the history of Christ as well as expressing all the virtues of Christianity. He says he wants to savor them with the members of his church.
“That is what makes Christmas special for me. Standing together in fellowship with my sisters and brothers in Christ, and worshipping before God, are what bring focus and purpose to everything which surrounds this holiday,” says Maharjan.
Bhandari too has been trying to get her two children excited about the Christmas mass that her own church is going to organize on December 25. Like Maharjan, her pastor too has made it a Christmas tradition to speak about morality and generosity that Christianity stands for and she wants them to sit in and listen to all that the pastor has to say about it.
“I like how my church helps me groom my children. They taught them to pray before meals, they taught them about charity and since Christmas is already such an exciting occasion for the kids, they try and make the most of it by adding more such important messages in between the programs,” elaborates Bhandari.
She knows it’s going to be a busy day, decorating the tree, picking out special gifts for loved ones, listening to holiday themed songs especially ones sung by her children, but as is the case for all devout Christians all over the world , Bhandari also admits it’s the perfect excuse to enjoy all things she holds dear.
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