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Celebrating Christmas in Pakistan

KARACHI: It is the time of the year when Christmas trees, cakes, festive lights, and Santa Claus appear everywhere across the globe to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. Pakistan is no different. Churches around the country organize midnight mass on Christmas Eve to thank the Lord for a sending a saviour to humanity.

Susan Thomas, a City Councilor in the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, believes that Christmas is not just a day for celebrations, it means so much more than that. The Christian community gets together on the day to discuss solutions to their daily issues as well.

“This Christmas Eve, the churchgoers discussed developing thorough legislations to record Christian marriages in Pakistan. We even discussed creating awareness about divorce proceedings and inheritance laws according to biblical rulings, which again, needs to be brought under the legal ambit by means of legislation,” she said while speaking to The News Tribe.

“The spirit of Christmas lies in looking after each other not just as a community but as a nation at large,” she further expressed her thoughts.

The City Councilor hoped that the government would release the much-needed funds so that work could be done to empower the Christian community in Pakistan. Twenty-five lac Rupees were released three years ago, in which she restored the dilapidated roads towards the Church in PIB Colony, Karachi.

Christmas décor at St. Philip Catholic Church, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi (Image Courtesy: Susan Thomas)
Christmas décor at St. Philip Catholic Church, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi (Image Courtesy: Susan Thomas)

Numan Peter, who works for the National Commission for Justice and Peace under the Catholic Church, thinks that Christmas brings out the best in the people.

“Our Christmas celebrations begin four weeks before the actual day. The wreath needs to be placed on the door, decorated Christmas tree should grace the living area as the centre of attraction, Santa Claus has to be ready, tons of shopping needs to be done for the family and the underprivileged people who cannot afford celebrations on their own,” he chimed.

“Christmas serves as the reminder for the teachings of Jesus Christ, we try to be more self-aware through fasting, sharing and spreading love,” he enthusiastically replied.

It is believed that Santa Claus is actually a nickname given to St. Nicholas, a Bishop who lived in Myra, Turkey in the 4th century, well known for helping poor secretly through bags of gold sent down through the chimneys on Christmas Eve.

Christmas cake prepared by Rozina Yaseen to wish her christian domestic helper
Christmas cake prepared by Rozina Yaseen to wish her Christian domestic helper

The other names he shares are ‘Father Christmas’ in the UK, ‘Père Nöel’ in France, ‘Christkind’ in Germany and ‘Kris Kringle’ in Holland which later became ‘Sinterklaas’ or as we say it now ‘Santa Claus’ in the United States.

Christmas also has its special music and songs. Local Musicians develop Christmas songs in Urdu – the national language of Pakistan – and flaunt their talent during the festive season.

Simien Xavier, a seasoned musician with wonderful guitaring skills, who enjoys a reasonable audience and fan base in Pakistan, said “I loved playing the guitar on Christmas. Now that I am away from Pakistan, I miss my family and friends who would constantly ask me to play for them. It is so hard being away from family on Christmas.”

Christmas Tree at a local church in Karachi, Pakistan.
Christmas Tree at a local church in Karachi, Pakistan.

One other aspect that makes Pakistani Christmas different from the rest of the world is the delicious local food.

Christians in Karachi and Hyderabad vouch on a scrumptious biryani to celebrate the festival with family and friends along with the traditional Christmas cake. Go a little north, and the main dish changes to Pulao, while in the west of the country, hearty BBQ is deemed special.

Unlike widespread misconception, Muslim families share the spirit of celebration with the Christian community. Muslim neighbours, friends, and relatives join in the Christmas parties and dinners, after all, Christmas is all about peace, love and kindness.