Some years ago,around early November, I was invited to participate in a ‘Christmas Cake-mixing Ceremony’ at a five star hotel. A dozen or so bakers and chefs stood around a large table on which stood large glass bowls containing many different kinds of ingredients, along with some bottles of wine.The bakers and the chefs were dressed in their customary snow-white uniforms, including tall white bakers’/chefs’ hats. All the ingredients were heaped one after other into a huge pile and mixed together. I was told that this mixture would now be stored in a safe place for a month, by which time whatever ingredients had to ripen would have ripened, disseminating their particular flavor and aromas. Then, Christmas cakes of various sizes would be made out of this flavorful mixture, which would be on the shelves of their patisseries by Christmas Eve.
It was,actually, quite a short-lived affair, but quite significant when you think about it, because it reflects the Christmas spirit all around, with similar Christmas cake-mixing ceremonies held in almost all the five star hotels in Kathmandu. At some of these events, one will find a whole lot of celebrities ranging from actors to singers to models to beauty queens. At others, one will find couples from many different embassies participating sportingly in what can be considered to be the true heralds of the festive Christmas season in Kathmandu.
Another familiar (and traditional) heralding of Christmas is the AWON (Active Women’s Organization of Nepal) Christmas Bazaar held around the first week of December every year. This year, it’s being held at Hotel Hyatt Regency in Boudha on Dec 6, and will have stalls of various vendors of Nepali-made products. It’s a fine place to shop for gifts for your loved ones, and you won’t mind spending a fair amount when you know that the proceeds from this bazaar will be going towards the funding of many welfare programs like scholarships, skill training for marginalized individuals, literacy campaigns, etc. Additionally, you’ll be getting a pretty wide and eclectic variety of unique products, which will certainly make your gifts highly appreciated.
Other organizations, too, contribute to the Christmas spirit by holding their own bazaars. One such is the Fair Trade Group, which has many different handicraft manufacturers as its members. They held their Fair Trade Christmas Bazaar on Nov 20 on the premises of the German Development Cooperation office in Sanepa. Expectedly, there were a lot of nice handicrafts at their bazaar (herbal cosmetics, handloom apparel and furnishings, decoratives, organic food products, etc.), all of which would make handsome Christmas gifts. Another organization, the House of Rajkarnikar, will be organizing an event called ‘Christmas Kathmandu’ on Dec 13 and 14 at National Administrative Staff College in Jawalakhel. It will be having about 100 stalls; so shopping for Christmas gifts should be a pleasure. In addition, there will also be a food festival, a music concert, etc.
Reading all this, you’ll already have got a good idea about the excitement associated with Christmas in Nepal, particularly in the capital, Kathmandu. As for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself, you won’t lack for church services, in case you want to attend one, since there are quite a large number of churches in and around Kathmandu Valley. What’s more, on Christmas Eve you’ll probably come across quite a few groups of carol singers around town. Thamel, the tourist hub, will of course have a very festive look a week ahead of Christmas, with Christmas trees decorated with all sorts of sparkles in the lobbies of hotels and in restaurants, streamers all over the place, and menus offering fantastic Christmas fare (including turkey) at pretty reasonable rates. Away from Thamel, most of the better hotels will be offering special Christmas Eve packages that include dinner, drinks, and dance.
Oh yes, Christmas is celebrated with gusto and joy in Kathmandu, and it’s not only Christians (locals and international), or only expatriates, who get into the Christmas spirit; plenty of local families also just can’t wait for Christmas to come around. It’s a time of celebration, after all, and can any Nepali stay away from one? Kathmandu is definitely the place to be during Christmas; there will be plenty going all around; lots of parties, lots of fun, lots of goodwill and cheer. However, in case you want to celebrate Christmas in a different way, and outside the valley, then know that many travel agencies have special 10-12 day Christmas and New Year holiday packages, that might have you celebrating Christmas in some exotic destination, for example, a lovely resort in the Chitwan jungle, and New Year in the lovely lake city of Pokhara, paragliding from Sarangkot, and ensuring a memorable ending to 2014.
Whatever your preference, you can rest assured that Nepal, particularly Kathmandu, has already been infused with the festive spirit of Christmas, and you’re surely going to have a great time!