In one of China's rare Catholic communities, Christmas is a colorful mix of customs

Publication: 
NPR
Release Date: 
December 25, 2020

Cizhong Church in China's southwestern Yunnan province is bathed in a golden light on Christmas Eve.

The faithful are streaming into the church in full Tibetan regalia, with the women splitting off to sit on the left in their bright pink headscarves and silk brocades, and the men to the right in cowboy hats and shearlings. Neighbors wave at each other. Heavily swaddled children run up and down the church aisle.

The rare Catholic community has survived more than 150 years here in the village of Cizhong, just a few dozen kilometers away from the border with both China's Tibetan region and Myanmar.

Their traditions are a colorful mixture of Buddhist and Christian practices. The church embodies this amalgamation: painted Buddhist lotuses spiral around the balustrades, while Tibetan yin and yang symbols panel the ceiling.

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