Christmas is celebrated by Christians in Sri Lanka (Catholic as well as other denominations) to mark the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem many centuries ago. Along with millions of Christians worldwide, those in Sri Lanka enter the month of December with anticipation and excitement, looking forward to this festival which brings together families and friends in an environment of good cheer.
Families prepare for Christmas during the weeks leading up to December 25th, Christmas Day which is a holiday in Sri Lanka. Homes are cleaned and painted, new clothes are bought or stitched and decorations are hung. Even though Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country, Christmas is not limited to Christians homes only. Many Buddhist homes, especially those with children join in the festive fun by decorating a Christmas tree and stringing up lights. Santa Claus is an important part of the seasonal festivities here in Sri Lanka too, and is seen in many shopping malls and at Christmas parties, and even non-Christian children have come to love this jolly character. Seasonal treats such as Christmas cake, Breudher, mince pies, etc are prepared in advance, and the festive meal on Christmas Day very often includes the traditional turkey. It is the custom for Christian families to share their festive fare with non-Christian households by presenting them with a platter laden with delicacies.
Since Christmas is followed closely by the New Year, an atmosphere of festivity and celebration prevails everywhere. Shops and offices are beautifully decorated and a huge shopping festival takes place from around the end of November right up till Christmas, and ‘Sale’ signs can be seen in almost all shops, with attractive price reductions being offered. Sending Christmas cards to family and friends both here and overseas is another tradition that still continues. Hotels and commercial establishments are given a facelift around mid-November with seasonal decorations, and an interesting fact is the emerging trend of utilizing natural materials such as twigs, jute, leaves, etc, to create a natural but visually stunning Christmas ambiance.
Churches prepare for Christmas by organizing Carol Services, and groups of people travel around the towns at night visiting homes to sing carols. It is also common for groups to visit orphanages, elders’ homes and hospitals distributing food and gifts during this period in order to promote the concept of goodwill and sharing. In recent times special initiatives have been taken by Churches, media institutions and commercial establishments to organize charity drives to benefit those in need, and the response to these has been overwhelming.
On the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, Churches hold midnight mass to herald the dawn of Christmas. At midnight thousands of firecrackers are lit – a very popular Sri Lankan practice at any major festival. After mass, everyone goes home to share cake and wine and exchange gifts. Churches hold services on Christmas Day as well, in English, Sinhala and Tamil, and some families attend these Services after partaking of Christmas breakfast. The rest of the day is spent with family and friends, enjoying the delicious Christmas food and singing carols. The 26th of December, Boxing Day, is also traditionally a holiday in Sri Lanka.
WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS