Christmas For All

Duriya Ismat lahan Usha is a nine year-old student at Cordova School. Like every year, her excitement grows as December 2 comes around. There’s only one question on her mind Will Santa get me the Barbie or the Play dough set always wanted?” Quite a dilemma for this young one and much like Usha, this kind of suspense has taken over a lot of young Dhakaites.

Usha’s ten-year-old brother Shaan has taken matters into his own hands to welcome Santa. “Some would say Santa could not come to Bangladesh as it doesn’t get a cold as the North Pole here but I plan to switch on the fan in my room despite the cold, to make Santa comfortable,” says little Shaan. As these young toddlers await Santa’s arrival, we, from all religious norms, get to welcome the celebration of Christmas, with delicious cakes, soothing carols, beautiful decorations and hearts full of love.

Christmas or Boro Din, as we call it in Bangla, has always been a time of festivity in Bangladesh. Like every other major festival, Christmas is not only celebrated by Christians here but everyone from every other religion gets to embrace this Holy celebration. Christmas in Bangladeshi households have their own uniqueness and essence. Be it food or Christmas carols, Boro Din’s celebrations involve a mix of our individual cultural features and some themes borrowed from the West.

The celebration of Christmas, in this part of the world, goes back to the Sultanate period. The Portuguese missionaries and traders in Porto Grande built the first church in Chittagong around the 16th century. As years passed and finally Jesuits opened their mission in 1600. Mughal and then Colonial Dhaka became home to many Armenians, Greeks, Catholics and Anglicans. As the Christian population grew, so did the celebration.

“My Christmas celebration goes back to the late 1950’s,” says Afroza Banu, retired English teacher of Udayan Higher Secondary School. “I remember my sister and her husband used to decorate the household with lights and fresh flowers. It was hard to get a Christmas tree then so we would sometimes even decorate an ordinary tree.” Back then Christmas was celebrated with close friends and family in a homely environment. “The best part was going to Holy Cross Church for the Mass and listening to the soothing tunes of the carols. The spirit of the Holy celebrations is amplified in official colonies and neighbourhoods. In Motijheel AGB Colony, Christmas was no less than any other big festival. “For us of the colony, Christmas was all about food and gifts,” says Director Golam Sohorab Dodul.