It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas in Pakistan!

Go and see how beautiful the cultural diversity of Pakistan is

All year round, different communities in Pakistan indulge in celebrations and rejoice their respective occasions with exuberance and glee. Among all the minorities, Christmas is the most widely celebrated festival in Pakistan. Be it the high end shopping malls and eateries, or the ‘galli -muhallas,’ one cannot miss the flashy décor of Christmas. From imported Christmas trees and expensive ornaments to affordable ‘Made in Pakistan’ décor or that supplied from China market, there’s not even a single place that doesn’t display Christmas accessories.

The most exciting part, besides Christmas pageants, human-made Crib depicting the Nativity, and Carol singing, is the Christmas décor competition. This doesn’t only happen in big cities, it’s an important activities in small towns and villages. Sikandar Farman, Counsellor from Bhalwal district Sargodha said, “Such activities particularly involve the youth and give them a chance to do something healthy. Because it also involves elders and children, it helps bridge generation gap while ensuring mutual respect.” 
Christmas Muhalla

Christmas celebrations at PITB presided by its chairman Dr Umar Saif

Dexter Miller of Mecca Colony Gulberg was appointed the judge from his parish. He said that it’s encouraging to see how everyone, regardless of their faith, comes together to decorate the colony on both Eid and Christmas. It builds a harmonious environment which endorses peaceful coexistence. One simply cannot miss the ‘Star of David’ shining high above the rooftops, especially while travelling over flyovers that overlook Christian majority colonies.

Christmas shopping, like world over, begins in late October. If you’re wise, you wouldn’t miss the chance to grab reasonably priced Christmas décor and accessories from major bazars like Shah Alam market and Anarkali. The same goes for other cities with whole sale markets. Trust me, the quality is as good as the ones you find in contemporary shops although destination locations definitely have even better but highly priced products. But if you missed the chance, one could always drop by at the shop of Daughters of St Paul, which is a missionary source available across the world. Absolutely affordable, Christmas products available here are rare and exquisite.

Reindeer from Project Rich

Enhanced security during Christmas outside the churches

As Christmas celebrations continue till the feast of Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, the bliss in the air is filled with joyful glee. The community is especially grateful to the government for making Christmas extra special by initiating ‘Christmas Peace Train.’ To signify national solidarity with Pakistani Christians on this important religious festival, the Christmas Peace Train is carrying about 60 Christians from various cities and town. The train, which departed on Dec 22 from Islamabad on a 15-day countrywide tour, made its first major stop in Peshawar. The train is an initiative of the railways and human rights ministries and is scheduled to reach Karachi on Dec 31 while stopping at various main stations of villages, towns and cities throughout the provinces. The entire décor, from artwork to interiors, is done fabulously. Nothing has been missed out – including our very own Pakistani Santa. Note that this is the first train launched in South Asia as a part of Christmas celebrations.

Dr Khalid Zaheer, fellow Al-Mawrid, believes that such gestures inspire coexistence and interfaith harmony. He commented, “Saying Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas to a Christian is no problem. In fact, it’s likely to bring the two individuals together. Greeting anyone from another faith doesn’t mean we are accepting their faith, it only means we are wishing them well. It is good to have healthy relationships with each other to promote co-existence and peace, especially because this is what we have been asked to do in our religion. Therefore, greeting Merry Christmas or anyone else on their religious or cultural festival does not affect our religious commitments and creed. To ensure interfaith harmony it’s important to support interfaith dialogue in order to understand each other and live in peace.”

Making work fun at Plan 9

Similarly, Peaceful Pakistan – an initiative of the Government of Punjab, aiming to promote coexistence and interfaith harmony visited various Churches during the Christmas season. The team paid a special visit to the Daughters of St Paul where they met with missionaries and individuals from here and abroad. Rachel Elma, a British educationist in Pakistan who works for the Diocese of Raiwand-The Church of Pakistan, shared her views saying, “I came back to Pakistan in 2015. I enjoy being in Pakistan especially during Christmas time. The people are very nice and friendly. I like going for long walk in the park where I meet strangers who are so nice and polite to me. I wish a Happy Christmas to everyone in Pakistan.”

The best part is that individuals too showed unity with the community by taking to social media to celebrate the festivity of the season. Madiha Saail, Creative Director of Project Rich, showed unity and peace by sharing the special ‘Reindeer’ from Project Rich collection.

Moin Khan, famously known for ‘A Different Agenda,’ disguised as Santa Claus and visited those who need a very Merry Christmas the most. His video ‘Jingle Bells’ available on his page conveyed the message of peace and love. He took to Facebook saying, “Only individuals can change the way we treat one another. A very merry Christmas to all our Pakistani Christian brothers and sisters, we stand with you!Pakistan Zindabad!”

Among the hangouts that overflow with crowds enjoying the season, Avari Hotel won the heart of visitors with its exclusive Christmas brunch that offered a variety of cuisines from its five top eateries. But that wasn’t all. The sky high Christmas tree with traditional Christmas music created an aura and ambiance of typical Christmas ecstasy. Earlier on, St Mary’s Church choir led by the parish priest Rev Fr Patrick Samuel was invited to elevate the Christmas spirit.

Children celebrating Christmas at Avari

Christmas glee in Pakistan has its own significance. It’s a blend of various cultural traditions too. One can clearly witness the century-and-a half old bakery Mohkamdin in Lahore’s Anarkali overflowing with customers placing their orders weeks in advance. Shezan, among all other bakeries, is best known for keeping tradition of Christmas confectionary alive. Not to forget the traditional homemade cuisine that strengthens the bond between families and loved ones! While the Anglo Indian community, the Goans, and the locals have their own specialties, one of the famous cuisines are ‘Goja or Gujiya’ made among the Urdu speaking Christian community. If you ever get a chance to visit any of your acquaintances or friends, don’t miss it. Go and see how beautiful the cultural diversity of Pakistan is. And yes, it will also serve as an evidence that Pakistan is a peaceful country with a nation that is striving to strengthen coexistence and national unity.

Marian Sharaf Joseph is an independent journalist. Her work for local and global publications focuses on culture and community affairs

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