12/16/2013, 00.00
NEPAL
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Christmas in Nepal: record sales for Jesus and the Virgin figurines

by Christopher Sharma
Since last year, sales of Christmas-themed gifts and decorations shot up 100 per cent. Kathmandu handicraft shops have extended their hours to meet demand. "Since the fall of the monarchy, people are freer and we sell items not only to Christians but also to Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims," one gift shop owner said.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Once banned under the Hindu monarchy, Jesus figurines and Christmas-related items are now becoming part of Nepali culture. Although the Christian holy day was made a national holiday in 2011, primarily for economic reasons, it has not lost its religious spirit.

Some local artisans told AsiaNews that thousands of people are currently flocking to their shops in search of figurines and images of the nativity, Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

Sanjeev Pudel owns Dhukuti, a handicraft shop in Kupondole, which sells small hand-made wooden objects, like figurines, some of which have a Christian religious theme.

Compared to past years, this year business has increased exponentially. "We are so busy that our craftsmen do not even have time for lunch. Wooden images of Jesus Christ, of the Virgin Mary, the Christmas star and wooden covers for Bibles are our best sellers."

So much is the demand that many customers have agreed to pick up the purchases even after Christmas, Sanjeev said.

The season's festive atmosphere is also found in the capital's shopping malls and streets with stores decked out with garlands, stars, and Christmas trees. Even private homes have decorations inside and outside.

In the capital, most gift shops have sold out souvenirs and decorations, mostly imports from China. Early sales figures show an increase in business of 100 per cent compared to 2012.

Archives Gallery is located in Khichapokhari, one of Kathmandu's most important shopping centres. Anil Jalan, the gallery's owner, said that people have queued for days outside his shop to buy gifts and decorations. His main customers are restaurants, beauty salons and boutiques.

The Archives Gallery offers a large selection of items. Trees range from US$ 12 for the smallest ones (30 cm) to US$ 40 for the tallest (5 m). There is also a wide range of Santa Claus costumes with prices ranging from US$ 2.50 to US$ 135. Pictures and figurines of Jesus are among the items that have been sold out.

Until "a few years ago," Anil explained, "people were afraid to buy Christmas items in a society dominated by the Hindu religion. Today however, people are freer and sell items not only to Christians but to Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims."

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