Christmas is celebrated in India with great enthusiasm and a blend of both Christian and secular traditions. India is a diverse country with people of different religions and cultures, so the way Christmas is celebrated can vary widely depending on the region. Here is an overview of how Christmas is typically celebrated in India:
Attending midnight Mass or church services is an essential part of Christmas celebrations for Christians in India. Churches are beautifully decorated with lights and ornaments, and carols are sung during the services.
Homes, streets, and markets are adorned with colorful lights, stars, and Christmas trees. In many cities, you can find vibrant Christmas displays and decorations.
Christmas trees are common in urban areas, especially among Christian households. In some regions, banana or mango trees are decorated as "Christmas trees" due to the absence of traditional evergreen trees.
Caroling is a popular tradition, and groups of children and adults visit homes, sing carols, and collect donations or treats. Caroling is not limited to Christians, and people of various backgrounds often participate.
Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus are set up in homes and churches. They are known as "cribs" in India.
Indian families prepare special Christmas sweets and treats, such as plum cakes, fruitcakes, and cookies. In regions like Goa, you'll find traditional dishes like "bebinca" and "dodol" as part of the festive cuisine.
Exchanging gifts is a common tradition during Christmas in India, and it is not limited to Christians. Families and friends give each other presents, and it is a time for showing appreciation and love.
The figure of Santa Claus is known as "Father Christmas" in India. In some regions, especially in urban areas, Santa Claus visits homes and distributes gifts to children.
Many cities and towns organize public celebrations, including parades, Christmas bazaars, and cultural events. In some regions, there are Christmas dances and pageants.
Lighting candles on Christmas Eve is a symbolic tradition, signifying the arrival of Jesus as the "Light of the World." It is common to see candlelit processions and displays in some areas.
In India, Christmas is not exclusively a religious holiday. It is widely celebrated as a secular festival with a focus on family, friends, and the spirit of giving.
In many parts of India, the Christmas celebrations extend into New Year's Eve with fireworks, parties, and festive gatherings.
Christmas in India is a vibrant and multicultural celebration that reflects the country's rich diversity. It is a time when people come together, regardless of their religious background, to enjoy the festive atmosphere, exchange gifts, and share in the spirit of togetherness and goodwill.
India is a secular nation and houses every community. Christians are a minority here and form nearly 2.3% of the population. But the fact that there are only about 25 million Christians in India, in no way lessens the observance of the festival. Moreover, the occassion is celebrated not only by Christians but by people of other religions as well.
The tradition of Christmas observance was introduced here with the colonisation of Europeans. Though the country gained its independence in 1947, many European customs and festivals stayed on. The fact that there is the presence of a Christian community in India, helped the maintaining of these traditions in no less a way. Today, Christmas is the biggest and most-loved festival of Indian Christians. The festival is also enthusiastically celebrated by people of other religions residing here.
Like in many other countries, Christmas is observed in India on 25th December. Everyone gears up for the festival from nearly a week before. Business stores are decked up for the occassion with every gift shop packed with Christmas trees, presents, ornaments and other items of decoration that are bought by millions of enthusiastic celebrants of the festival.
For Indian Christians, especially the Catholics, the Midnight mass on Christmas Eve is a very important service and holds great religious significance. Every year, on the night of 24th December, all members in Christian families visit their local churches to attend the Midnight mass. On this night, churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles. The mass over, everyone relishes a mouthwatering feast of various delicacies, mostly consisting of curries. Thereupon, presents are given to one another and "Merry Christmas" is wished. India being a multicultural nation, many different languages are spoken here. In Hindi and Urdu, Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Bade Din ki Mubarak'; in Sanskrit it is 'Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa'; in Bengali 'Barodiner shubhechha janai'; and in Tamil it's 'Christhu Jayanthi Nalvaalthukal'.
Nativity plays are staged in many schools(mainly the Christian ones) and churches on Christmas morning. The perfomances by young children depict the birth, life and actions of Jesus Christ and usually end with the singing of hymns and carols and the visit of a person dressed as Santa to distribute candies/toffees to kids. In the metros a smiling Santa Claus, entertaining children at departmental stores with toys and gifts, is not an uncommon sight. Caroling processions on streets and thoroughfares can also be seen on 24th night.
A sizeable population of the Christian Community reside in Mumbai of the Indian state of Maharashtra and are mainly Roman Catholics. It is a delight to watch their homes during Christmas. Every Christian home creates a nativity scene, often display a manger in the front window. Giant star-shaped paper lanterns are hung between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road. There is a provision of sweets, mainly home-made, in every household to welcome visitors during the occassion. In Southern states, Christians often light small clay oil lamps and place these on the flat roofs of their homes to show that Jesus is the light of the world. In the North-western states of India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk take out caroling processions during the whole Christmas week and often visit neighbouring villages to tell the Christmas story to people through songs.
In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus is held to be the giver of presents to children from a horse and cart. As in the U.S., he is believed to deliver presents at the house of every kid who behaves well during the whole year. Santa Claus is known as 'Christmas Baba' in Hindi and 'Christmas Thaathaa' in Tamil.