What Makes the Christmas Festival in Nepal Special?
The first Christians arrived in Nepal as far back as 1715 A.D. (For comparison, Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered Kathmandu in 1769 A.D.)
Since then, they have contributed to the development of Nepal, especially in education and medicine, and being a welcoming country, Nepalis have embraced the Christians. Since Nepal was declared a secular country in 2008, the Nepali state views all religions as equal.
The Christmas festival in Nepal blends cultural diversity with universal themes of love, compassion, and celebration. The festive season, rooted in Christian traditions, transcends religious boundaries, making it a special occasion for people of all faiths.
The welcoming Nepalis and their inclusive spirit contribute to the unique charm of Christmas celebrations, fostering a sense of unity and joy throughout the country. Christmas Day ( celebrated on December 25 every year) is a national holiday in Nepal.
Importance of Christmas in Nepalese Culture
In Nepal, while Christmas isn't traditionally a major religious or cultural event as it is in predominantly Christian countries, it's still celebrated and holds significance, especially among the Christian community and increasingly among the broader population.
- Religious Significance: For Christians in Nepal, Christmas holds immense religious importance. It's a time to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, and churches hold special services and prayers. The Christian community gathers to celebrate this sacred event, sharing in the joy and teachings associated with Christ's birth.
- Cultural Exchange and Harmony: In recent years, Christmas has also become a more secular celebration in Nepal. The festive spirit, decorations, exchanging of gifts, and the overall atmosphere contribute to a sense of community and cultural exchange. Nepalese of various faiths often join in the celebrations, partaking in the joyous aspects of Christmas.
- Commercial and Social Aspect: In urban areas, commercial aspects of Christmas are evident through sales, decorations in shops, and themed events. It's an opportunity for businesses to attract customers with special offers and festive sales. Additionally, Christmas gatherings, parties, and events provide opportunities for social interaction and merriment among friends and families.
- Global Influence: Nepal, being open to various cultures and influences, has embraced aspects of Christmas due to globalization and exposure to Western traditions through media and tourism. This has led to a gradual integration of Christmas festivities into the cultural tapestry of Nepal.
- Charity and Generosity: Christmas often emphasizes the values of generosity and giving. In Nepal, it's not uncommon for people, regardless of their religious beliefs, to engage in charitable activities during this time. Donating to the less fortunate, volunteering, and spreading kindness are common practices during the holiday season.
Overall, while Christmas isn't a primarily Nepalese cultural or religious event, it brings communities together, transcending religious differences. The festival is not only observed by the Christian community but embraced by people of various faiths as well, showcasing the harmonious coexistence in Nepali society.
The Christmas season serves as a unifying force, reinforcing the values of love, generosity, and togetherness. The importance of Christmas is not confined to religious observance but extends to a broader cultural context, where the spirit of the season permeates the very fabric of Nepalese society.
The legend behind the Christmas Festival
The popular legend of Christmas centers around the birth of Jesus Christ and the events surrounding this miraculous occurrence, as told in the Christian Bible's Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
The story goes that Mary, a virgin, was visited by the angel, who announced that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a son named Jesus.
Mary and her husband, Joseph, traveled to Bethlehem for a census, but there was no room for them at the inn. They found shelter in a humble stable or cave, where Jesus was born.
Angels proclaimed his birth to shepherds in the fields, and a bright star guided the Three Wise Men (or Magi) from the East to visit the newborn, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The legend and significance of Christmas lie in the belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born on this day, fulfilling prophecies and bringing hope and salvation to humanity. The birth of Jesus is seen as a divine event, signifying God's love for mankind and the promise of redemption.
How is Christmas celebrated in Nepal?
Though Christmas is celebrated in Nepal, you cannot expect it to be as grand as in Western Christian Societies in Europe or America. Sure, the Nepalis take part in the festivities as invited but you cannot run away from the fact that only around 4% of Nepalis are Christians.
The Churches are a driving force for Christmas celebrations, hosting midnight mass services. The resonant echoes of carols fill the air as worshippers gather to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
Christian families across the country adorn their homes with colorful lights, decorations, and Christmas trees, creating a festive ambiance. The aroma of seasonal treats and the sounds of laughter permeate the streets as communities come together to share in the joy of the season.
In the bustling markets, vendors display an array of festive items, from handmade crafts to traditional Christmas sweets. The exchange of gifts is a cherished tradition, symbolizing the spirit of giving and goodwill that defines the Christmas season.
Likewise, there are many activities you can do during the Christmas celebration in Nepal. Let's talk about each one in brief detail.
Things to Do During Christmas in Nepal
You can participate in various Christmas activities, mostly in big cities like Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Dharan. The shopping malls and big businesses decorate their establishments in Christian styles. Moreover, the Nepali local companies transacting with Christian countries also celebrate Christmas.
Exploring local markets during the festive season is a delightful experience. The markets come alive with the colors and sounds of Christmas. Strolling through these vibrant marketplaces, one can't help but be enchanted by the festive cheer that permeates the air.
Attend Church Services
In Nepal, especially in cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara, you'll find churches that host Christmas services. One of the highlights is attending midnight Mass services, where the faithful gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Additionally, there are special musical performances, carol singing, and prayers happening at the same time. The churches, adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations, become beacons of warmth and spirituality during this special time.
Christmas is a time of giving, and there are numerous opportunities for volunteering in Nepal. Many NGOs and charitable organizations organize events such as food drives, gift distributions for children, and community meals. Engaging in such activities allows you to connect with locals and contribute positively to the community.
Enjoy Nepali Cuisine
Nepali cuisine is diverse and delicious. During Christmas, you might find special festive dishes or variations on traditional favorites. Exploring local eateries or even trying home-cooked meals through homestay experiences can provide insight into Nepali culinary traditions.
Experience Nepali Culture
Nepal has a rich cultural heritage. Visiting places like Kathmandu Durbar Square or attending traditional dance performances showcase the country's history and artistic traditions. Explore museums or join cultural tours to learn more about Nepal's diverse cultural tapestry.
Join Festive Gatherings
Nepali people are known for their warmth and hospitality. During Christmas, you might be invited to join in local gatherings, whether it's a family celebration or a community event. Embrace these invitations to experience authentic Nepali hospitality.
Community events and charity initiatives are prevalent during the Christmas season. Many organizations and individuals engage in acts of kindness, from distributing food to the less fortunate to organizing events that bring joy to underprivileged communities. The spirit of giving back is a central theme during Christmas and reflects the generosity and compassion of Nepalis.
Nepal's natural beauty is unparalleled. Christmas might be an excellent time to explore the country's landscapes through activities like hiking, trekking in the Himalayas, wildlife safaris in Chitwan National Park, or simply enjoying scenic drives.
Experience Nepali Hospitality
Homestay experiences allow you to stay with local families, providing a firsthand experience of Nepali culture, traditions, and daily life. It's an immersive way to celebrate Christmas while gaining a deeper understanding of Nepali customs.
Popular Holiday Destinations during the Christmas Festival in Nepal
During the Christmas festival in Nepal, several destinations become popular due to their festive vibes, unique cultural experiences, and natural beauty. Here are some of the popular holiday destinations:
As Christmas approaches, famous star hotels host special Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas Day lunches - complete with Christmas carols and Christmas foods. The festivities get grander in Thamel, the tourist center in Kathmandu.
One local influence you can see in Kathmandu while celebrating Christmas is the use of lit diyos (oil lamps), placed in shops and houses. Kathmandu is also the biggest Christmas market in the nation.
2. Everest Base Camp
The Everest Base Camp (EBC) short trek during Christmas adds a touch of magic and festivity to the already awe-inspiring journey. Christmas EBC trek takes a winter wonderland with snow-covered trails, glistening peaks, and a serene, white landscape.
During your trek, you will find tea houses and local villages adorned with holiday decorations, creating a warm and celebratory ambiance in the heart of the mountains. You can cozy up in teahouses, share stories with fellow trekkers, and enjoy the warmth of festive camaraderie under the starlit sky.
If you are in Kathmandu, you can reach Everest Base Camp on the same day through an EBC helicopter tour or from a flight to Lukla. If you made it to the Everest Base Camp or the Kala Patthar Viewpoint on Christmas Day, we are sure this will be the most memorable part of your life.
3. Annapurna Base Camp
For those who do not want to trek away from the cities or are looking for less intense treks during Christmas, you should certainly consider the Annapurna Base Camp short trek.
Once again, the wintery trails to Annapurna Base Camp will be slightly snowy and quieter, allowing time to contemplate Christmas and its influence on your life, city, country, and the world. As you pass through Pokhara, we recommend you spend time there and participate in Christmas activities.
Pokhara is the tourist capital of Nepal and is always bustling with tourists who come here to see the serene lakes, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, and caves.
Pokhara is also known for adventurous sports like rafting, canoeing, and bungee jumping. Once again, you will find Pokhara adorned with Christmas decorations. There will be venues for live music, and the hotels serve special dishes.
Several churches in Pokhara, including the Pokhara Christian Fellowship and the St. Mary's Church host Church Mass. Boat rides on Phewa Lake, exploration of the vibrant Lakeside area, and the backdrop of snow-capped peaks make Pokhara an ideal Christmas destination.
For those who do not want to venture far from Kathmandu and still enjoy the views of the Himalayas, we recommend you do the Nagarkot trek during Christmas.
During the winter, the landscape transforms into a picturesque winter wonderland, creating a captivating backdrop for Christmas celebrations. Welcoming Christmas morning, with the first light of dawn over the Himalayas, is a magical and serene experience you will remember throughout your life.
Travel with DWT during Christmas
Christmas traditions in Nepal go beyond religious observance, embodying the spirit of unity, joy, and cultural richness. The festival serves as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of diverse communities in Nepal, where the values of love and compassion take center stage.
Whether in the vibrant cities or the serene landscapes of the Himalayas, the Christmas festival in Nepal offers a unique blend of cultural traditions and festive cheer, making it a memorable and heartwarming experience.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Christmas celebrated for?
Christmas is primarily celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ for Christians. It's a time for religious observance, family gatherings, gift-giving, and spreading joy and goodwill.
What is the Christmas festival about?
Christmas is a festival that symbolizes hope, love, and generosity. It's a time for people to come together, exchange gifts, share meals, and express gratitude while celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Do Nepali celebrate Christmas?
Yes, Nepali do celebrate Christmas. Although it is not a traditional Nepali festival due to the predominantly Hindu and Buddhist population, you can feel the festive season of Christmas around the country especially in Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara.
When is Christmas celebrated in Nepal?
Christmas is celebrated on December 25th worldwide, including in Nepal, among those who observe it.
How does Nepal celebrate Christmas?
In Nepal, Christmas is celebrated by the Christian community with church services, carol singing, special meals, and gatherings. Christian families across the country adorn their homes with colorful lights, decorations, and Christmas trees, creating a festive ambiance.
Why is December 24th called Christmas Eve?
December 24th is known as Christmas Eve because it is the evening or day before Christmas Day. It's a time when many people attend church services and prepare for the celebrations that occur on December 25th.