Christmas is annually celebrated in a grand scale across the island. Preparation for this great day begins weeks before as in other countries. The festive sound of firecrackers waking you up at the dawn of December 1st is the first intimation that Christmas is round the corner. Every home of the Christians or Catholics wakes up with the dawn of the first day of the month of December to perform the first ritualistic task of the month of merry making. It is celebrated by Christians and shared even by non-Christians in true Sri Lankan style.
It is said that the very first celebration of this festival was perhaps introduced to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese who ruled Sri Lanka from 1505-1650 and then the Dutch who ruled from 1658-1796 followed by British who ruled from 1815-1948.
The festivity spreads through all shopping centers all over the island. Even the small wayside boutiques throughout the country come out with their small festive decor. Christmas trees decorated and lit up are a common sight in shopping complexes and every Christian home.
The 25th of December, the commemoration day of the birth of Jesus Christ, is a public holiday and at the midnight of 24th of December, all the Cathedrals, Churches and little Chapels all over the island become houseful with devotees attending the “Mid Night Mass” (the Holy Eucharist) to celebrate in union with their fellowmen. Even Christians and non-Christians enjoy themselves to the fullest. Most non-Christians are invited to parties by their Christian friends and Christmas day finds people visiting relatives, friends and neighbors to share with them the seasonal cake and wine followed by a lavish spread lunch and dinner. It continues until the season draws to an end.
In Sri Lanka Christmas is called Naththala and Santa Claus is called Naththal Seeya.
Text by Neil Kiriella