Nepal has a population of over 25 million, and over 80 percent of Nepalis are Hindu. Around 10 percent are Buddhist, 4.5 percent Muslim, and only 1.5 percent Christian. And yet, from 2008 until 2016, Christmas was a public holiday in Nepal.
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Note: Christmas Day is observed by Christians only.
The government recognises, in fact, dozens of holidays, and the sheer number of off-work days was the reason given for disestablishing Christmas’ public-holiday status in 2016. Christians, however, have protested, suspecting discrimination.
Even without official status, however, many of Nepal’s nearly four million Christians will keep up festivities.
Many Nepali Christians will attend special church services at midnight on Christmas Eve and possibly on Christmas Day. Nepal observes the December 25th date of Christmas, and many of their Christmas traditions are “imported” from the West.
Believers will attend Christmas parties with friends and family, exchange presents, and decorate their homes with Christmas lights and Christmas trees. The trees will be decked out with ornaments such as bells, stars, reindeer, and miniature representations of wrapped gifts. Christmas shopping starts up in early December.
On Christmas Morning, those celebrating Christmas will go visiting at friends’ houses to wish them a merry Christmas, but in the evening, Christmas dinner is eaten by the family and any guests.
While the future of Christmas in Nepal is unclear as far as public recognition, and some may now have difficulty in getting off work to celebrate Christmas, you can be sure that there will still be Christmas activities in Nepal regardless.
Should you visit Nepal at Christmas time, here are some ideas on what to do while there:
- Visit Thamel, the downtown area of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. There have traditionally been many lights and decorations put up in this part of town. It is a top tourist hot spot, so you can always find concerts and other events going on, and restaurants will not miss the chance to serve Christmas foods to hungry tourists.
- In the lakefront city of Pokhara, over a 100 miles west from Kathmandu, there are also major Christmas celebrations. However, many go to Pokhara for fun activities not strictly connected with the Yuletide, including: boating on Lake Phewa, paragliding, bungee jumping, bicycling, and trekking.
- Also popular is the Annapurna Base Camp, one of the main trekking centres of Nepal. The treks that start there take you past numerous towering mountain ranges, through native villages, and amid the local wildlife. Treks can be taken in wintertime, too, but you will have to willing to bring a sleeping bag and camp out on the ground at points.
- Another trek adventure that some will be interested in is the two-week trek from Everest Base Camp, which lies at the foot of the world’s tallest peak. This trek runs during winter as well. It takes you to breathtaking lookout points near Mount Everest and to the famed Tengboche Monastery at the base of the mountain.
- Tour the biggest nature park in all Nepal, the Chitwan National Park. You can enter through the village of Sauraha, which lies next door to the park. The weather here stays warm year round, and you can see Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinoceroses, and other endangered species under protection here. Many also go on elephant-back rides, take a wildlife safari, boat down the Rapti river, and visit the traditional villages of the local Tharu people.
While Nepal does not have as many Christmas events as Christian-majority countries, it does have a few, and there are many other activities one can enjoy while in the country as well.
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