Christmas is a tradition, celebrated around the world; from China to Norway and from Germany to Chile. I thought I would look at how the Indians celebrate this festive season, as I never really think about Christmas and India in the same vein.
Christmas in India is a celebration that harmoniously blends religious traditions, cultural diversity, and a touch of Indian flair. While a predominantly Hindu-majority country, India embraces the festive spirit of Christmas, with communities of Christians and non-Christians coming together to revel in the joyous occasion.
One of the distinctive features of Christmas in India is the vibrant display of decorations. From bustling metropolitan areas to quaint villages, streets are adorned with colourful lights, sparkling ornaments, and intricately decorated Christmas trees.
The Christmas feast in India reflects the country's culinary diversity. While traditional Western dishes like roast turkey and plum pudding are enjoyed in Christian households, there is a delightful infusion of Indian flavours. Spiced biryanis, rich curries, and a variety of sweets find a place on the Christmas table, creating a unique fusion of tastes that mirrors India's gastronomic tastes.
Carols and hymns, both in English and regional languages, fill the air during the Christmas season. Churches host midnight Mass, drawing worshippers and curious onlookers alike. The melodious tunes of traditional carols intertwine with the rhythmic beats of Indian drums and instruments, adding a distinctive touch to the religious celebrations.
In many Indian cities, especially in regions with a significant Christian population, Christmas markets spring to life. These markets offer an array of festive goodies, handcrafted ornaments, and seasonal treats, creating a lively and colourful atmosphere.
Gift-giving is a cherished tradition during Indian Christmas celebrations. Families exchange presents, and the act of giving extends beyond close relatives, to include friends and neighbours. It is not uncommon to find communities organizing gift exchanges or secret Santa events, fostering a sense of camaraderie and goodwill.
For many Indians, Christmas is also a time for charitable activities. Communities come together to organize events that benefit the less fortunate, including food drives, clothing donations, and visits to orphanages. The spirit of giving back is deeply ingrained in the festive celebrations, reflecting the essence of compassion and kindness associated with Christmas.
In regions with a strong Christian presence, like Goa and Kerala, elaborate nativity scenes known as 'cribs' are crafted. These artistic representations of the Nativity story often include traditional Indian elements, creating a visual spectacle that captivates both locals and tourists.
It is nice to know, no matter where you look in the world, Christmas is a time for giving and sharing with less fortunate.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.