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Bangladesh

Traditions mark Christ the King feast in Bangladesh

Indigenous faithful celebrate the feast as a harvest festival, dedicating their new crop to God

Traditions mark Christ the King feast in Bangladesh

Devotees celebrate Christ the King feast by sharing a variety of new rice dishes at Fatima Rani Church in Bangladesh on Nov. 21. (Photo: Supplied)

Catholic Surobhi Minj never misses a Sunday Mass. And, the November Sunday of the feast of Christ the King has become a harvest festival for her community in Bangladesh.  

On the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe on Nov. 21 Surobhi and family members wore new clothes to go to the church. They carried with them 15-kilogram rice from the latest harvest and offered it to Christ the King.

Surobhi also carried a cake she baked from the newly harvested paddy and shared it with everyone including the priest and nuns after the priest blessed the harvest offerings.

Local Catholics like Surobhi offer a share of their farm produce during the feast, making it a sort of harvest festival for indigenous Catholics across Bangladesh.

Surobhi planted paddy in her  0.251 hectors of land. "We harvested and stored it in the house. I am yet to measure this year’s yield but it’s better than previous years. I devoted a little to God because, without His grace and blessings, we cannot consume this crop at home,” the 34-year-old Oraon indigenous farmer said.

The premises of her St. Anthony’s parish Church in Rajshahi Diocese were flooded with a variety of fresh crops on Sunday morning.

Like Minj, several Catholics in the parish had come to offer their harvests to Christ the King. Some even sold a part of the yield to gift new clothes to the priest.

They entered the church in a procession and placed their crops in front of the altar.

The Sunday Mass was followed by cultural events and a banquet where everyone partook of freshly cooked rice and vegetables.

Father Patrick Gomes, the parish priest of St. Anthony’s Church, said the indigenous people in the area celebrate the Christ the King Feast as a harvest festival.

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“Devotees dedicate their new harvest to God on this day. They bake cakes, cook dessert and eat together, which strengthens the bonds of brotherhood,” he explained.

They take it an occasion to thank God God for the yields and offer them to Him. The harvest was good this year, the priest said.

Parishioners together offered about 400 kilograms of rice to the church, much more than what they did in the previous few years, he added.

The scene is similar across parishes in the Diocese of Rajshahi, which boasts indigenous faithful such as Santal, Oraon (Kuruk and Sadri), Mahali and Paharia, besides mainstream Bangalee (Bengali) people in its diocesan territory.

Father Anthony Sen, the parish priest of the Fatima Rani Church of Dinajpur Diocese, said compared to previous years the number of participants and donations on the feast of Christ the King has increased.

“People have brought various crops including paddy, banana and potato to the church. Sometimes they call me and ask the size of the clothes I wear and gift me shirts or trousers,” the priest said.

“Indigenous Christians have a practice of giving back to the church part of what they earn and it is a very good sign for the local church,” Father Sen said.

The indigenous Garo Catholics in Bangladesh celebrate the traditional ‘Wangala,’ a harvest festival giving thanks to God for a good harvest.

Like other most festivals in the Christian world, the Garo ‘Wangala’ festival has its roots in pagan traditions. These followers of an old religion called Sangsarek would previously thank and honor Misi Saljong, the goddess of crops and fertility, and the main god Tatara Rabuga.

But for the past few decades since evangelization, the feast day of Christ the King has become an occasion to celebrate the traditional feast in every Garo parish.

“No matter what we do throughout the year, at least one day we should glorify the Creator by offering a few sacrifices,” Surobhi Minj said.

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