Christmas in Timor-Leste is celebrated with a public holiday every 25 December, as it is in a majority of countries around the world. This Christian festivity commemorates the birth of Jesus, and is part of a 22-28 day season in the Christian calendar known as Advent.
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Timor-Leste has a Roman Catholic majority, unlike the Muslim-majority islands of Indonesia that surround it. Therefore, the people of Timor-Leste generally celebrate Christmas with great enthusiasm.
Attending “Christ’s Mass” is the highlight of Christmas for many in Timor-Leste. Services may be held both late on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day in some churches. The elaborate, life-sized nativity scenes that are put on display in the towns and villages are also a major part of the holiday’s charm. These displays are often equipped with colourful lights.
Many times, young children will build the nativity scenes and then “guard” them all day and night from Christmas up until 6 January, thus completing “the 12 days of Christmas”. Traveling to one’s childhood home from the city of Dili and spending the holidays feasting and partying with friends and family there is also traditional with many in Timor-Leste.
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