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Parishioners praying before the altar after mass on Dec 22, 2019, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Puchong, Malaysia. By the side is a model of a manger with dried palm leaves for roof, which is a common depiction of a manger in churches in Malaysia.

Asia Gets Ready for Christmas

DECEMBER 22, 2019: Here is a quick round-up of pre-Christmas events and developments in different parts of Asia. Some of the events will warm your hearts. Some will show you the reality of the situations in those countries.


Sabah declares a two-day state holiday for Christmas so families have more bonding time. A quarter of Sabah’s 3.9 million population are Christians.


The provincial government in Jakarta is holding Christmas carolling on the streets of the capital for the first time to “spread joy” and convince residents it caters for people of all faiths.

“Our thinking is that Christmas should be celebrated not only inside churches,” said Hendra Hidayat, Bureau chief of education and mental spiritual affairs at the provincial government.


A 600-year-old Christmas tradition from the Philippines lives on. For nine days leading to Christmas, Filipinos get up at wee hours of the morning for a special novena and Eucharistic mass called Simbang Gabi or Mass of the Night.

Simbang Gabi was recognised in Vatican City this year when the Pope celebrated the novena in the St Peter’s Basilica on Dec 15.

Sri Lanka

Local cricket stars gave out about 500 gifts at a Christmas party on Dec 16 to survivors and families affected by the Easter Sunday bombings that devastated the country last year.


It was a night filled with caroling in Nagpur on Dec 19. This is a city right in the centre of India in the Maharashtra state. Numerous choirs sang Christmas carols throughout the night. The event was organised by the Catholic Association of Nagpur. 


The Government College University celebrated Christmas with a special event with stage performances on Dec 19. The event was to promote peace and tolerance.


Catholic organisation Caritas Bangladesh held a Christmas party for about 100 street children with cake and goodies. Some of the children have never seen a cake before.


The Holy Trinity Catholic Church in a major fishing town invited the Vietnamese migrant fishermen to attend their Christmas celebration where there will be a mass followed by Christmas dinner.


The Chaldean Catholic Church will not be holding public Christmas celebrations as a mark of respect for the 400 or so people who died since October in an on-going protest. The church has asked believers to pray and intercede for the country, and said that money spent on decorations and merriment could be given to those who were injured in the protests and their families.


The Zhejiang province produces 60% of the world’s Christmas products – from Christmas trees to it ornaments and party supplies.  But the irony is that China bans Christmas-themed displays and products because it promotes Western influence. In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the malls have changed their marketing promotions from Christmas season to “wish list season”.