01/03/2008, 00.00
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Christmas becoming a national holiday in the former Hindu kingdom

by Kalpit Parajuli
Parliament adds four more statutory holidays to the calendar in recognition of the country’s religious and ethnic minorities. Muslims, Buddhists and others react to the decision with satisfaction. Some see it as a first step.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – For the first time the Nepali government has decided to add four days celebrated by the country’s religious and ethnic minorities to the list of statutory holidays, including Christmas. The new law which was approved a few days after Christmas recognises a Muslim feast day, the Nepali New Year (Lhosar) celebrated by Janajatis and Chhad celebrated by the Madhesi.

Lhosar has cultural rather than religious significance, especially among the Gurungs (photo: Gurung celebrations) and the Tamangs.

For the Madhesi Chhad is important for both cultural and religious reasons.

Local ethnic minorities had pressed for this kind of recognition as soon as Nepal was declared a secular state.

Under the former Hindu monarchy only Hindu festivities and one Buddhist celebration (the Buddha’s birthday or Buddha Jayanti) were recognised.

As one might expect, minority Nepalis are quite pleased.

Hasina Khan, secretary of the Nepal Federation of Muslim Women, told AsiaNews that “even though one day is not enough for our annual celebrations, we are happy at least for this first recognition.”

Om Gurung, president of the Nepal Janajati Federation, is more critical. Whilst “happy for Lhosar,” he said that “almost all our demands have yet to be heard.”

“However, Nepal seems to be shifting from Hindu domination to an inclusive nation with this decision,” said Buddhist nun Ananda.

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