I was not particularly looking forward to this Christmas. A long way from home, friends and family. None of the familiar comforts and traditions. Where I ended up I could not have predicted. Christmas day dawned with the now usual magnificent Himalayan sunrise (not that I get to see too many, usually it is still far too cold to crawl out of my sleeping bag and I wait until the sun hits the side of the mountain and thaws the night frost first).
The previous night Manoj had informed me there was a large gathering on the cold side of the mountain (like it’s not already cold!). There was to be a death ceremony, which was the start of a 13 day celebration with large numbers of people coming from all over the surrounding area and as far away as Pokhara. It was obligatory that we attend. After about an hours walk, we arrived and I was surprised to see the huge number of people – more than 200 +. Apparently people had made the trip specially from Pokhara and even further afield
I found Ratna and Bhabana amongst the women, who took me round and ensured I missed none of the ceremony. No sooner than I had arrived than we were off following feathered men back down the mountain and through the forest. A long procession of people eventually arrived at a clearing on the edge of the forest looking over the valley and things hotted up. I can’t give a full explanation of everything that
happened, but it involved a lot of dancing, hooping, cymbals and noise, a charge by the feathered men, then a group of women wrapped
another masked man in goat’s intestines. Ratna explained he was an evil spirit who needed to be subdued. More chanting and circling mat with a pillow on it – I am guessing the dead persons spirit was hanging about somewhere – the man
wrapped in goats intestines joined in. Then a lot of food burning before a procession back to the house where the main activities were an awful lot of food, dancing and general celebration.
As the only westerner attending, they were also keen to see me dance. I did my best to impress but managed to wiggle out quickly. For the record Nepalese dancing is not a group affair, it mostly involves two or three in a group and often just one person dancing whilst everyone else watches and claps along. So nowhere to hide for the shy!
It was a different Christmas for me, not a bauble or mincepie in sight J