In Pakistan, December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Like in India, Christians make up a very small part of the population. But as Pakistan has a population over 162 million people, there are more than 5 millions Christians! Most Christians in Pakistan live the country and are quite poor.
At Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter, a big procession takes place, in Lahore, from St. Anthony’s Church to the Cathedral. It takes hours to reach the Cathedral for the services. These are then celebrated with lots of enthusiasm! Before and during Advent, spiritual seminars take place to help people to prepare for Christmas or ‘Bara Din’ (which in Urdu and Punjabi means the ‘Big Day’). This expression is very popular, even among Muslims in Pakistan.
In many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house singing carols and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church.
In the big Christian areas, each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. The streets are also decorated and lit. The crib and Christmas tree are also important decorations. Sometimes there are crib competitions! Christians also sometimes exchange Christmas cakes.
On Christmas Eve, Churches are packed for the midnight or vigil-mass services. The choirs sing very special hymns. After the vigil-mass, in some places, there are fireworks which help celebrate the start of Bara Din. People dance, exchange presents and enjoy the special night.
On Bara Din or Christmas Day, Christians go to Church again for the Bara Din celebrations. People wear their best, colourful clothes. They can stay in the Church courtyard for hours, enjoying various food from the different stalls. The evening is usually celebrated with immediate family or relatives where special food is enjoyed. Adults often visit their parents.
The traditional Christmas greeting in Punjabi is ‘Bara Din Mubarrak Ho’, which means, ‘the blessing of Christmas on you’.
In Pakistan Santa Claus/Father Christmas is known as ‘Christmas Baba’.