Christmas among banana trees and under bamboo stars
by Sumon Francis Gomes
Traditional sweets, homes decorated with Christmas poems, and house-to-house Christmas carolling in the week preceding Christmas are part of the activities Bangladeshi Christians engage in preparation for the coming of Jesus. Celebrations are held with majority Muslims and Christmas day is a national holiday.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – As bamboo stars hang from rooftops and banana trees are decorated like Christmas trees, preparations for this holiest of days get in full swing in Bangladesh. Even in this predominantly Muslim country, Christmas is in fact a statutory holiday. In the villages, everyone is involved in preparing for Borodin (Christmas). Some bake traditional cakes and decorate churches and homes; others rehearse carols, for everything must be ready for Christmas Eve, when families go to church for confession before they can welcome the Baby Jesus in their homes.
“For Borodin (Christmas), we prepare various kinds of pitha-pulis (a local cake made with rice flour). For us, it is a special day in our lives, which we wait eagerly throughout the year,” said Suchitra Rozario, a homemaker in Mothbari Parsih, Gazipur.
During Advent, Bangladesh’s Christians embellish their homes with local handmade decorations. They prepare small small goshala (mangers) and hang stars made of bamboo and colour paper to the rooftops to represent the stars of Bethlehem.
Villagers also paint their homes, sing different design, writing short verses they composed on the pira (lower outside basement of village mud house).
In early December, boys and girls rehearse, getting ready to go house to house to sing Christmas carols in the week that precede 25 December.
“This year we will cut banana trees to replant them in pairs in front of the village’s main entrance. The leaves of the trees are bent to form an arch”, said Dipu Rodrigues, a young boy from Nagori Parish, Gazipur. “We have a plan to replant a banana tree in the middle of the yard like other years as a symbol of the Christmas Tree.”
Whether in the cities or the villages, Christmas is celebrated in many different ways.
Dolon Placid Gomes, a parishioner in the Holy Cross Church, Luxmibzar, Dhaka, supervises the decoration of the church by parish children.
“Christmas celebration in the city is a bit different from the villages. We sing carols during the week before Christmas. Many of us will leave town on Christmas day to join relatives at the village home,” he added.
“The Christmas Eucharist in St Mary’s Cathedral in Dhaka will be broadcast live by most local television channels,” said Fr Joyanto Gomes, director of Christian Communications Centre. “Both radio and TV also plan special programming for the holiday weekend, a unique occurrence in a Muslim nation.”