The One Christian Holiday in South Asia

Christians in South Asia honor the biblical meaning of Christmas through their greetings and traditions.

In South Asia, the Christmas season looks very different.

Christmas pines do not grow in the humid climate of South Asia, and snow is an unfathomable miracle. There are no elves on shelves—or any other place—and no candy canes or inflatable yard decorations. Have you ever wondered how other places in the world celebrate Christmas, if not with Santa and reindeer?

In many ways, the Western world is farther advanced in technology, education, healthcare, and other modern conveniences, but I think Christmas is a category in which this advancement has diminished growth in Western society and culture.

In the country in which I live and serve, Christians make up less than 0.25% of the population. The year is packed with Islamic holy days and the month of Ramadan, along with Hindu rituals and festivals. But the government does recognize one Christian holiday: Christmas. This is the one day each year that Christians are given the opportunity to celebrate their faith, and it is very special to them.

Believers call Christmas day Shubho Borodin, which translated means happy big day. And why is this day so happy and big? One South Asian brother in Christ describes the happiness of Christmas through the words of a song that he penned for the holidays. Image that the lyrics rhyme, because they do in the original language!

Son of God you came to this world

So the lost sheep do not drown in sin.

You came in humility,

Born in a little cowshed.

To your love

There is no comparison.

A thousand years have passed.

Hundreds still do not know,

Christmas is not just festivities,

Not an obligation,

Not just fellowship,

Not busyness.

Christmas is the coming of Christ

To give his life for us.

Christmas is to be cleansed from sin

By accepting Christ as Redeemer.

These are powerful words.

While the Christians in this area of the world have their big day traditions of visiting each other’s homes for tea and homemade sweets, they strive to keep the biblical meaning of Christmas at the forefront. They decorate for the holiday by making wooden stars with lights attached. At night, you can see stars made by both the Creator and the created ones lighting up the horizon. The stars are a symbol of that little baby in a manger who came to save us from sin. And that infant Savior, Immanuel, is revered year-round—not just on one big day.

A star made by Christians in South Asia for Christmas.

If you have ever visited the Muslim world, or if you have Muslim friends, you may have heard their universal greeting: as-salamu-alaikum (Arabic for peace be with you). Like the Jewish shalom or Hinduism’s namaste, this is an everyday greeting deeply intertwined with faith. The Christians here have done the same, and they greet each other with the word Immanuel.

So, with much love from your brothers and sisters in South Asia, Immanuel and Happy Big Day to you all.