Bangladesh joins the rest of the world in celebrating Christmas. However, in this country, this festival is referred to as Baro Din, which means the "Big Day". The entire nation reverberates with festivities. Cakes and a large spread of traditional festive food especially pitha, payesh and nonveg fares take centre stage in the revelry.
Boro Din, this is what I have grown up with, referring to Christmas. The term roughly translates to Big Day. Born in a Bengali family identifying this festival as Boro Din was natural. That is what it is called in the Indian state of West Bengal and its counterpart, i.e., East Bengal or Bangladesh. Opaar Bangala (other side of Bengal), as often referred to as this neighbouring country, has several cultural similarities with this. Known for its rich culinary fares, it is instead a timely question to ponder, what it has to offer during the upcoming Boro Din, Aka, Christmas? Are there special cakes, desserts or savoury delicacies?
Let's explore the food trail.
To understand the celebration of Christmas in Bangladesh, one has to consider what led to its beginning? It began after Christianity was introduced to this country. Over the years, it evolved into a faith with sizeable followers. Like any other region, Christians in Bangladesh visit family and friends on Christmas and exchange gifts. Marked as a national holiday, it adds to the festive cheer. Apart from Christmas carols, what is unique to Christmas in Bangladesh is Kirtan. It's a musical group performance by Bengali Christians with a lead singer leading the rest of the singers.
Christmas Kirtan at Bangladesh, Image Source: thehistoryjunkie.com
Shubho Boro Din, or "Greetings of the Great Day," is the customary way that people greet one another. From rural areas to urban scapes, the country is decked up in rustic and contemporary ways. In Bangladesh, 'Nishan,' meaning small flag, is a style of adorning structures for various festival events. Hundreds of little pink paper triangles are used to make these strings.
Apart from exchanging gifts, wishes and visits, the Christmas celebration includes ceremonial culinary preparation. From cake and cookies to traditional Bangladeshi pitha form the typical fare. Christians make Christmas cakes and go to churches. Lunch and dinner are served with a variety of vegetables, mutton, chicken, pork, or beef dishes.
A platter of Bangladeshi meal, Image Source: bengl_ig@Instagram
Following church services, particularly in rural provinces, it is customary for everyone to congregate at the church for Christmas dinner. This is referred to as the 'Preeti-bhoj' or 'Prem-bhoj'. Chicken and vegetable curries served with rice are typical dishes.
Boro Din cake, Image Source: appetite_foody@Instagram
Pitha, or sweet cakes and dumplings prepared of rice flour, milk, coconut, and jaggery, are also traditional Christmas treats. Payesh or rice pudding are not to be missed. Versions of pitha are prepared differently in different regions.