The Hyper Christmas in Nepal

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It seems that Christmas has become the “coolest” trend in Nepal. I remember back in 2009 when I spent my first Christmas time in the country and I was literally surprised to see the first Christmas trees being on sell at Bhatbhateni supermarket.

The previous year I had spent an “amazing” Christmas working in office as this holy day for the Christians was not yet recognized as a public holiday.

Then a more inclusive state started recognizing the rights of minorities, ethnic and religious as well, and Christmas like Eid and many other religious days were turned into a public holiday.

For many this was a great step towards a new nation that abandoned its official religion to embrace diversity and respect for those who were forced to be part of the mainstream society.

Fast forward to 2016 and we saw probably the biggest commercialization of Christmas I have ever seen. I would call it “Hyper Christmas” where thousands of youths celebrated Christmas’s Eve dancing and drinking.

To be honest with you, I felt, for a while, a kind of sympathy for those advocating a return to a Hindu state. It is not that I agree with their goal of reinstating a symbol of the past, not at all. Nepal is a much stronger nation because it got rid, at least formally, of old structures and mindsets and it decided to be an open and inclusive society.

Yet this way of embracing cultural and religious norms in a very superficial way, just for fun, is inappropriate and to some extents lack of respect for those who really celebrate Christmas or for those who at least understand what this day is about.

Yet looking at all the ads of parties on Christmas Eve, I felt a strong feeling of unease. Youngsters and adults alike were celebrating Christmas like it were a Halloween party or St. Valentine day.

It was for many an amazing opportunity to have fun, have fun and have fun! It is not that in western countries Christmas has become immune from commercialization.

Unfortunately also in countries that have been traditionally Christians, people have lost the real meaning of this special day. It is more about presents and Christmas trees rather than reflection and personal reassessment and joy to spend peaceful time with your family friends.

When I was small, I remember getting prepared to Christmas by doing some small sacrifices  in the special time called Advent that starts approximately 2 or 3 weeks before Christmas. Each day I and my sister and as well as my cousins and all friends, we had to make a small renounce: no tv, no chocolate or candies or helping more at home. Each of us had the freedom to decide on what to “cut” but we had to stick to it.

It was a nice way to remember ourselves that Christmas was of course about presents and celebrations but it was also a period of selflessness where we should do more with less and possibly we should try to be better persons, improving our behaviors and helping those in needs. It was all about small and symbolic gestures, nothing else but it was important.

On Christmas Eve, we were planning to have training for the members of one of the two All Inclusive Empowering Clubs ENGAGE helped setting up, a social club about inclusion and disabilities that is the result of a partnership between ENGAGE and two leading colleges in the valley.

The previous Saturday we had mutually agreed to have the training on the 24th of December so I did not only prepare myself for it but I also decided not to go to Jorpati where we are running an English course there.

At around 9 am on Saturday, I received a call from a member of the club. She is a smart and very promising young lady but she was asking to postpone the training because it was Christmas Eve.

I decided to keep the training and at the end only two persons came. I deeply appreciated their sense of commitment and their high level of accountability to stick to their words. Thanks to both of them and I mean it.

To all the youngsters who got super excited to “celebrate” Christmas, an invite to reflect: what if you end up living in a western country and you see all over people celebrating a Bai Tika party or getting drunk or dancing wildly on Dashain Party?

Would you feel a bit odd? Would you ask your local friends if at least they know a bit about what they are celebrating?

Christmas was a huge business for pubs, restaurant and bars and there is nothing wrong if people all over the world come together to have fun on this special day.

Yet if we really want to celebrate the day in a big way, we should all know what that day is all about. It is not Halloween, nor New Year ‘eve nor St. Valentine.

To that club member who called me on Saturday morning and to all those others who did not attend the training and to the thousands of youngsters who had super fun on Christmas Eve, few small suggestions:

  1. Dodging a commitment for a futile thing like going around to “celebrate” Christmas the way was celebrated here, won’t help you go very far in life.
  2. Do not be shocked when you will travel to the western countries and you will not find any wild party on Christmas Eve. At that point you all will understand what Christmas is all about

I go back with my mind to that day in 2009 when I was happily surprised to see the first Christmas trees at Bhatbhateni. Somehow I missed that.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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