The annual event is held in an open field in Padang Merdeka with visitors enjoying local food and festive songs.
KOTA KINABALU: Hymns and Christmas carols blared through speakers and reverberated through the city of Kota Kinabalu as gospel singers and local artistes filled the air at Padang Merdeka with familiar jingles.
The annual Christmas carnival, which kicked off on Monday, attracted thousands of visitors from all walks of life and from various races and religions.
Each year, churches in Sabah under the Sabah Council of Churches take turns to organise the event and this year, it was led by the Sabah Anglican Church in collaboration with the Kota Kinabalu City Hall.
Stay up-to-date by following FMT's Telegram channelFMT
More than 200 hawkers pitched their products from toys to clothes, but most of the visitors were making a beeline to the stalls selling various types of food, ranging from halal to non-halal.
The four-day carnival which ended last night, was interrupted every now and then by heavy rain but it did not dampen the festive mood as visitors snapped selfies with Santa Claus and his helpers, visited the life-size nativity scene and marvelled at the Christmas tree made out of plastic bottles.
Nur Aishah Zulkipli, a student from Pahang, marvelled at the atmosphere and said she had never experienced anything like it before.
“I think this event sums up Sabahans’ openness and respect towards each other’s culture and belief.
“I only meant to pass by but was curious after seeing two young men dressed in jubah, who had obviously come from the nearby mosque, walking around and enjoying the event,” she said.
Asked what was the most surprising thing for her at the event, Nur Aishah said she was happy to see that the event was well-received by Sabahans without any allegations of Christianisation.
She lamented that similar events would not be possible in her hometown because “people are sensitive”.
Another visitor who only wished to be known as Stanley said he came with his cousins to enjoy the open-air concert.
“We always come here for the concerts because the city allows praise and worship sessions for church members to be held in Padang Merdeka. I think it is really cool,” he said.
The Kota Kinabalu Christmas Celebration traditionally held the fiesta at Gaya Street but shifted it to Padang Merdeka last year to accommodate more visitors.
The Sabah government allocated RM200,000 for the event which Mayor Yeo Boon Hai said was proof of the government’s support for the freedom of religion in the state.
The celebration, themed “God’s Love, Man’s Hope”, was launched by Chief Minister Musa Aman on Monday.
In his speech, Musa said the state wished to ensure that religious freedom was further enhanced and it was proud to be seen as a model state for its multiracial makeup and religious tolerance.