Family traditions, greetings, gifts, scrumptious food, hot cocoa, and drinks is all a part of the much awaited Christmas celebrations. Indians especially love their festivals, considering we have a little too many, and therefore we always find ways to make them special and a one to remember!

“Our Christmas celebrations start at least one month prior to Christmas Eve. My aunt soaks raisins and other dry fruits in rum which is then baked into a cake. We decorate the house and our huge 6.5 feet Christmas tree. On Christmas eve, rum is poured over it and the cake is lit on fire before it is cut by the family. Church on 24th midnight to usher in Christmas followed by going home where the most senior of the family becomes Santa and gives us our presents which are already placed under the tree.” says Abhay Raha, from Mumbai.

 The most senior of the family becomes Santa and gives us our presents which are already placed under the tree.

In the rural parts of South India, little clay lamps are lit as decorations in their houses, a symbolic celebration to mark the advent of the Holy Child. Decorating mango and banana trees is a common practice in this region and acts as their version of a Christmas tree.

Bananas for a Christmas tree!
Bananas for a Christmas tree! PC: Festival Sherpa

Heena D’Souza of Mumbai says, “Our Christmas is inspired by local traditions and is quite different from what you see in the West. Our celebration is mostly around food! This year I’m responsible to make all the sweets, karanji, chakli, shakar para. We have a small tree that we decorate and also a small crib which shows the birth of Jesus. It almost looks like Diwali celebration, but it’s Christmas for us!”

The churches are lit with candles and the atmosphere is almost magical. The mass, which is conducted in English and sometimes in the local language as well, is a mystical affair where the congregation listens to the service and the songs in silence.

India being a heterogenous country with a vast religious diversification, the rituals and customs often overlap with local culture. Writer Palash Ghosh once even wrote an article in ibtimes on how Hindus venerate Mother Mary. Dr. Andrew Walker, Professor of Theology at King’s College in London, indicated that Mother Mary fits perfectly into India’s ancient tradition of mother goddess veneration.

The famous Mother Mary of Mount Mary Church all dressed for Christmas service in Bombay.
The famous Mother Mary of Mount Mary Church all dressed for Christmas service in Bombay.

For Indians, all festivals are an excuse to celebrate, drink and be merry. Suman Sharma, who lives in Bandra says, “We aren’t Christians, but that definitely doesn’t stop us from being a part of Christmas. I always buy a cake for the family and we have a great evening with our friends and family. It’s almost like a second Diwali for us! (if you have to see it from that perspective)”

Feature Image Courtesy: The Huffington Post India