Dushanbe (Fides Service) - “The season of Advent in preparation for Christmas in the Catholic community Tagikistan has retained all its special significance which sad to say I never saw in my years of ministry in the West. I think we can say that the Catholic community of Tagikistan has retained with vitality and freshness what the Church has professed for two thousand years”, Father Carlos Avila VE, Superior of the Catholic Missio Sui Iuris of Tagikistan, told Fides with regard to how 245 Catholics in a population of about 6 million prepare to live Christmas.
“People have kept the Christmas traditions despite long years of communism and atheism propagated by the Marxist ideology bent on uprooting faith in the mystery of Christmas, the birth of the Saviour, a mystery which leads to Redemption, Easter, and the Lord’s return - Father Carlos Avila told Fides-. Exterior signs of Christmas are still visible here as in other regions but perhaps precisely because of restrictions under the dictatorship, the spirit of Christmas has deepened”.
The Advent wreath of four candles one for each Sunday in Advent is a tradition here. The priest blesses Wreaths placed in churches at the beginning of Advent.
“The Mass of the Good Night” (Midnight Mass) is always solemn and crowded. We also have a Nativity Scene, different every year prepared by our young people with great creativity and local touches, for example landscape, architecture, clothes etc. We usually have Christmas drawing competitions for children, youth and adults with prizes for the three best entries in each category”.
The purpose of Christmas carols was to announce the Good News to illiterate rural peoples. “Our children do not sing on the streets. But we do have a annual Christmas play- Father Carlos continues-. This year our catechism children are presenting a Nativity play. A local School of Music always organises a Christmas Concert with carols in different languages because there are a number of foreigners in to Tagikistan.”
The Christmas tree is a local tradition. The first Catholics who came to Tagikistan were of German origin and it should not be forgotten that the present significance given to the Christmas Tree comes from St Boniface, apostle of Germany. Christmas trees are put up in churches and in homes.
“These are the traditions which we have here at the Mission Tagikistan - Father Carlos concludes-. Please God we will never lose the healthy tradition of Christmas festivities or forget that the heart of the Christmas mystery is the birth of the Saviour, or find ourselves in a situation where the Christian meaning of Christmas needs to be restored, as it is happening in many places with long Christian traditions”. (R.Z.) (Agenzia Fides 21/12/2004, righe 38, parole 513)