Despite being a predominately Muslim country, Bangladesh celebrates Christmas on the same day that we do and has some of the same traditions.
The Christian population in Bangladesh is estimated to be at .3% of 170 million people so the fact that they celebrate a holiday that honors the birth of Christ is a bit surprising.
Christmas in Bangladesh begins its differences with us in the actual name of the holiday. It is not known as Christmas but rather "Borodin," which means "the big day" in Bengali. This means that the citizens of the country also have different holiday greetings.
They say "Shubho Borodin" to mean Happy or Merry Christmas.
Due to the climate being warm at Christmas time, it is common to see many of the towns decorated with fake snow and, of course, fake Christmas Trees. As the holiday grows in popularity, it begins to take on other Western traditions such as Christmas Trees at home with decorations, Christmas Cards, and also time with family.
These traditions are especially observed by those who are Christians.
Like American Christians and Catholics, Midnight Mass or Candlelight services are popular. Buildings are also decorated with Nishan, which are strings made of many small pink paper triangles.
However, their Christmas services are different from American services:
Traditionally, in Bengali churches, the men it on one side of the church and women sit on the other. Popular Christmas songs include 'Aaj Shuvo Borodin bhai, aaj Shuvo Borodin,' which means 'Today is Happy Borodin, friend/brother, today is Happy Borodin.'
The kirtan is also performed at Christmas. This is a song within Bengali Christian culture that is performed by a singer who leads, and everyone follows them. The song begins at a slower pace and proceeds to speed up. The song continues to get faster and faster, and those following the leader of the song will form a circle and walk then dance around him.
This type of Christmas Carol is much different from American traditions, but it sounds very entertaining.
After the Christmas church services, Christmas in Bangladesh looks more familiar to how we celebrate the holiday in America. There is a traditional Christmas dinner prepared at the church. The dinner is called Preeri-bhoj, which means a love feast.
This meal is a community meal that includes chicken and vegetable curries with rice and vegetables, and for dessert, you will often find a dish called pitha or payesh. A pitha is made from sweet rice cakes made from rice flour, milk, coconut, and molasses, while a payesh is a rice pudding.