Felicityfrom Dr Felicity Mussell...

Christmas in the Bangla language is “Boro Din” which means literally “Big Day” and it will indeed be a big day for us at LAMB, centred on the church which is on the compound.  The church building was extended this year, but it will still be overflowing with children and adults for the Christmas services.

In the week before Christmas, there will be various celebrations in the hospital, including the staff service, but Christmas proper will begin with the Christmas Eve service in the early evening in the church.  The church will have been decorated by the young people, and will look very bright with paper decorations, streamers and probably balloons!

The service will probably mainly follow the usual Lutheran liturgy, but the hymns/carols will be Christmas ones.  Some you would recognise, as they are Bangla translations of traditional Christmas carols such as “O Come all ye faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

After the service, a group (mainly youngsters but not only the young) will set off on the “kirtoning” which is a special sort of carol-singing which also involves dancing and playing traditional instruments.

They will go from house to house on LAMB compound, and will be treated to Bangla tea and snacks as they go, and then they will probably go to houses off compound, and sometimes even into Parbatipur town.  They have been known to keep going all night! On Christmas Day itself, there will be a family service in the church at 9 a.m.

Again, the service will probably follow the usual liturgy, but there will be LOTS of singing!  Apart from congregational carols, it is usual at Christmas for different groups to present a special song.  The different language/tribal groups (Bengali, Santali, Garo, Arao, and us “bideshis”) will all contribute, and the Sunday school will also sing for us.  No random visitor entering or passing the church could be in doubt that there is something very special going on as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!

 

Another unique feature of Christmas at LAMB is the communal meal that all members of the church congregation, and hospital staff who wish to, join in after the service.  It is usually served under an awning in the open air – it may be winter even in Bangladesh but it is not really cold here!  We sit at long tables and are served rice, lentils, and goat curry – all eaten with the fingers (yes, it really is possible!) – you just need a good hand-wash afterwards!  Before the lunch and afterwards, it is customary to visit people’s houses to socialise and eat special Christmas delicacies such as “pita”, a sort of sweet pastry.

In the evening on Christmas Day, there is a LAMB tradition of all the “bideshis” (foreigners) getting together for a meal or some sort of celebration.
In years past we have had a turkey meal (turkey imported from Singapore!!), or goose, with everybody contributing a part of the meal.

Last year we did it more simply, with snacks, and we shared a time of worship and meditation on the meaning of Christmas.  I don’t know what form our celebration will take this year, but I’m sure we will be rejoicing as we remember how God sent His only Son Jesus into the world to be our saviour.  This is the real meaning of Christmas.

Happy Christmas to you all!

Dr Felicity Mussell