As Bangladesh happens to be culturally harmonious in terms of religion - occasions of our other religious brethren such as the Hindu pujas and the Christian Easter Sunday/Christmas are also celebrated with much pomp and grandeur.
Not only do these occasions receive the form of government holidays, but they are also participated by the followers - rather than just being another day to doze off. As Christmas on December 25 happens to be the biggest festival for Christians, one might associate it with the falling of snow and large Christmas trees on every block. But this initial disappointment dissipates once you delve into the locally-contextualized celebration of Jesus Christ's birthday.
Anticipating Christmas trees and the occasional mistletoes in renowned restaurants and cafes? Check. Church visits followed by feasts (Preeti Bhoj) and hymns (Kirtan) on Christmas Eve? Check. Cakes and gifts for their loved ones? Check. Dressing up a Bangladeshi as Santa Claus for giving children gifts? Something not prevalent a few decades ago, but still, check.
Thanks to the age of globalisation and the advent of pop culture references, people of all races and religions anticipate Christmas as huge year-end sales are offered in markets in the west. With the vacations rolling till the first week of the New Year that follows, it is a culture that others eagerly look forward to. Given that sentiment, there is no reason to believe that Christmas would not celebrated in the East with little fanfare.
Children here these days spend Christmas watching 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' and silently expect Santa to shower them with an iPhone 6S, sans the falling of snow outside. But as times are evolving, the event, known in Bangla as Borodin, is slowly expanding its footprint in the cultural stratosphere of Bangladesh.
The 5 star hotels at are their meticulous and arduous best, ensuring that Christmas is not missed by their foreign guests, as well as enthusiastic locals. From special buffet menus which includes the famous roast turkey and cranberry sauce combo, to special attractions and games for children led by Santa Claus, hotels such as the Westin Dhaka, Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka, Le Meridien, Six Seasons and others - all offer something for those who want to celebrate the big day.
So what makes the Bengali Christmas celebration different from its Western counterpart? Not much if you ask me. But the human element of participation, such as going to church even if you don't on Sundays, or similarly for some Muslims who do not enter mosques other than for Eid prayers - it symbolizes a return to old 'family values and attachments', where social and spiritual rekindling takes utmost precedence over a day of sheer gluttony.
The writer is a journalist
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