Christmas added as public holiday in Hindu-majority Nepal

Katmandu, Nepal - Christmas is among nine religious and ethnic feasts the Nepalese government has added to the country's list of public holidays after pressure from minority ethnic and religious groups.

The Hindu-majority country's Home Affairs Ministry announced Dec. 29 that Christmas and Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim feast that follows the fasting month of Ramadan, were among the new public holidays.

"That is something to rejoice at," Bishop Anthony Sharma of Nepal told the Asian church news agency UCA News Dec. 31. "The government has finally recognized Christians' and the Catholic Church's contribution to the country." He added that he hopes the government will make Good Friday and Easter public holidays, too. Sunday is a working day in Nepal, while Saturday is the weekly holiday.

Under the former Hindu monarchy only Hindu festivities and one Buddhist celebration (the Buddha’s birthday or Buddha Jayanti) were recognised.

As one might expect, minority Nepalis are quite pleased.

Hasina Khan, secretary of the Nepal Federation of Muslim Women, told AsiaNews that “even though one day is not enough for our annual celebrations, we are happy at least for this first recognition.”

Om Gurung, president of the Nepal Janajati Federation, is more critical. Whilst “happy for Lhosar,” he said that “almost all our demands have yet to be heard.”

“However, Nepal seems to be shifting from Hindu domination to an inclusive nation with this decision,” said Buddhist nun Ananda.

With the additional holidays, the number of public holidays in the country is about 35, the bulk being Hindu festivals, including a nine-day break for Dashain, which commemorates a great victory of gods over demons.