Christmas in Atharogram | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 25, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 25, 2018

Christmas in Atharogram

One of the few celebrations that joins humanity, Christmas is celebrated across the world, yet each way of observing the birth of Jesus is unique to nations; even small pockets within a larger community. Atharogram — an area of South Dhaka comprising only 18 villages and boasting a population of about 12,000 Christians has its own way of celebrating the birth of Christ. Here, one finds four parishes — Hasnabad, Golla, Tuital, and Solepur. Advised by a priest, each parish is a small administrative region typically having its own church. But together as the parishes celebrate, they become one.

PREPARATIONS FOR CHRISTMAS

From the beginning of December, people clean their homes and decorate them. They trim trees and prune bushes. Horticulture enthusiasts often sow seeds of flowering plants in their courtyards. Stars and other decorations are found across the world, but at Atharogram, they are made from bamboos, fabrics, and pieces of coloured paper. The stars are put on a long bamboo stick, and often illuminated by inserting small lights inside them. 

Although Atharogram is a little known place comprised of the southern parts of the Dhaka district and nearby areas, the diaspora that has now spread to almost every part of the globe, returns to their ancestral home and the celebrations are now a blend of tradition and novelties.

CHRISTMAS EVE

This is a busy time — the last day of preparation before Borodin, 25 December, the date that marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Amidst all that prep time, one can hear jingles being played at almost every home.

Churches are decorated with lights, flowers and the nativity scene depicted quite often. The barn where Jesus was born is replicated with statues of baby Jesus, Mother Mary, and Joseph.

Parish priests visit all cribs made by villagers on Christmas Eve, and after scrutiny, declares the winner. The competition is one of the most anticipated events of Christmas celebrations at Atharogram.

Every village under a Parish performs a song just before Christmas Eve devotion at the church. They write, compose the tune, and perform it themselves. And just like the competition of the nativity scene, people choose the best choir performance before the priest conducts the Christmas Eve devotion.

In the evening, people enjoy Christmas carols at the church compound, where all performers wear Santa Claus hats. They perform familiar Christmas carols and people eagerly wait for the performances. Children often dress up as fairies and Santa Claus walks into the crowd and distributes candies.

CHRISTMAS DAY WORSHIP

On Christmas day, people wake up the morning.  They wear new dresses and proceed towards the church. All believers join the prayers. People meet relatives and friends at the church compound; they exchange greetings and take photos. The church compound becomes the melting pot for all the parishes of the community.

NATIVE TRADITIONAL CAROL

The native carol is a traditional event of celebrating and sharing the joy of Christmas at Atharogram. Youth clubs organise the carols, write lyrics and compose the tune and as the music plays, the children dance. The girls and the ladies wear saris and tie it up with rope on their waists. They paint their faces and wear anklet that jingles as they dance. Young boys go from door to door to sing native carols. The families tip the carol performers, and this door-to-door performance often continues till 31 December.

BECAUSE IT IS CHRISTMAS…

The cakes are a Christmas staple, and are usually bought from the local bakery. In addition to that, people make various types of traditional pithas, 'pakon' and 'katakali' being the most popular.

The numerous youth clubs of Atharogram bring out special little magazines, and this is an eagerly anticipated annual programme. Poems, short stories, and articles are published in these magazines. On Christmas day, club members deliver them door to door. 

The Christian population in Bangladesh is a mere 0.5 percent, yet the diversity that exists amongst the people makes the celebration of Christmas varied and one seeped in traditions.

Atharogram is about 40km from Dhaka city, but winter not only brings the chill in Atharogram, it also brings Christmas.

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