In December, we celebrate Christmas all over the world. But the tradition of the celebration in each country is different. In Myanmar, most of the citizens are Buddhist but the celebration of Christmas is visible in almost every town. The decorations of the Christmas theme are at Hotels, Restaurants, and Shopping Centers since the first day of December and every Christian youth and child starts caroling house to house in every town.
In this article, the My Local Passion teams describe, with the help of editor Yaung, Christmas traditions in different areas of Myanmar. This year like in many other parts of the world, Christmas will be different, not only because of Covid-19 but also because of the Coup now almost one year ago. We are all longing for the great Christmas and other festivals we celebrated with so much joy, and our biggest wish for 2022 for everyone is that everything will be ok.
Christmas in Mandalay & Ayeyarwady Regions
Our Mandalay reporter mentions that a lot of houses in Mandalay have Christmas trees. Where Christian communities celebrate at Churches, non-Christians go to Christmas parties that are normally held all over town in restaurants and hotels.
In the Ayeyarwady region, Christians are celebrating Christmas in their Church. On Christmas night, they come and sing in front of each home. At this time, people welcome and support them. At the beach hotels of Ayeyarwady, they decorate the buildings with Christmas items and guests celebrate during the night.
Christmas in Kayah, Kayin & Tanintharyi Regions
Also in Kayah Christmas is a season of peace and serenity. Christian communities decorate their homes with a light on the three and put some stars and Christmas images. Christian communities of different age groups such as youth, adults, kids go around to greet by singing Christmas carols to their neighbors, friends, relatives. We can start hearing the carol singing groups from early December until Christmas Eve, 24 December. It is a lot of fun for youth and adult to join the carol singing group with friends during the cold season in Kayah.
In Kayin state, people celebrate Christmas by decorating Christmas trees with beautiful accessories and lights. People go out singing carols and asking for donations in front of their friends and relatives’ houses. Not only Christians but also Buddhists enjoy Christmas in Kayin State, the Kayin New Year is just a few days away from Christmas Day and Kayin and Christians people enjoy both celebrations together.
People in the southern Tanintharyi Region celebrate Christmas at home and love eating a good Christmas dinner together and exchanging gifts. In Dawei, Christians sing carols and go from door to door like in other places. However because of the coup and Covid-19, last year and this year, the celebrations are minimal.
Christmas in Yangon
In Yangon, the beautiful Christmas items in the super markets alert you from early December that the happy season comes nearer. Not only the Christians but also other religions who want to celebrate it buy decorations for their Christmas tree. Some offices decorate the workplace with Xmas things and gather together to celebrate.
On Christmas night, some citizens go outside with family or friends. For a colorful festive walk, you can visit downtown Yangon. Famous shopping malls and churches like Junction City, Sule Square Mall, People’s Park, Saint Mary Cathedral, Junction Square Promotion Area are all full of Xmas decorations. But some Yangon-ers love to stay at home and watch Christmas movies and have a homemade dinner.
Christmas in Taunggyi, Shan State, Eastern Myanmar
In Taunggyi, most of the Christian teachers invite their pupils to their house to have a meal together and celebrate Christmas while doing lots of activities together. Then, some children write down their wishes on paper and put it in their socks or keep it together with their socks before they go out, trusting that when they come back their wishes will come true. Adults mostly enjoy shopping during the Christmas season because almost every item is discounted and gets promotions at shopping centers. Hearing Christmas music at the mall is one of the best feelings of the year.
Christmas in Chin State, Western Myanmar
In Chin State, 70% of the population is Christian. So, the Christmas season has become the most exciting season we always wait for. Each church in town separates the duties to decorate the town with Christmas themes like Christmas trees, snowmen, and nativity sets with baby Jesus in the crib are displayed, with sparkling lights.
So, the towns in Chin state are more beautiful during night time. When we were little, we got new clothes only at the Christmas season for the whole year. Almost everyone wears new clothes at Christmas and enjoys the event together with family and friends. We have a special service in the morning at the church, and have a dinner party with all people of the same ward together at one place.
Other religions are also invited to the party. People who stay in another town for work or studying, especially come back to the family to celebrate Christmas together. All the adults and children join in carol singing with Santa Claus carrying big bags of sweets even if it is full of fog and so cold in the winter, we always feel excited about that. In the morning, we make sticky rice packed with banana leaves at the church and share it with everyone.
This is the unique tradition of Christmas celebrations in Chin State. We also celebrate pre- Christmas by fishing at the river or stream with friends and family before Christmas day. Cherries and rhododendrons bloom so beautifully in December amidst the thick fog. So, the Christmas season is one of the best and the most beautiful seasons of the year for everyone in Chin State.
Christmas in Myanmar in 2021
But this year in 2021, there has been a civil war everywhere in Chin State since the beginning of the coup and the people decided not to celebrate Christmas together. Money people, normally spent on Christmas, is now donated to local resistance groups like the ChinLand Defense Force, an army that fights for Democracy.
I have seen a movie about World War I, where they stopped firing amidst the war because it is the 25th of December (Christmas). As Christmas stands for peace, they played football and enjoyed the event together till midnight. The next morning, they started firing again for their country. As a Myanmar citizen, I really hope Christmas in 2021 brings us Peace in the whole country.