Single festival, many versions: How is Christmas celebrated in different parts of India?

Traditions and celebrations vary from state to state when it comes to celebrating Christmas in India.

Believe it or not, Christmas is celebrated with just as much (if not more) enthusiasm in India as any other festival. And just like anything else in this country, Christmas rituals here are elaborate, festive, and, of course, distinct. Hence, a glimpse into these traditions, unique to each state, speaks a lot about celebrating Christmas in India.

Thanks to the majority of its population following Christianity and its architecture and culture largely retaining the Portuguese influence, Goa is big on Christmas traditions and celebrations. Expect traditional midnight masses aka Missa de Galo that go well into the wee hours, firework displays on beaches, crazy raves, holiday-special cruises, and more! Fancy cribs and tree decorations are also a huge part of Goan celebrations, and so are rum cake mixing ceremonies and elaborate Christmas feasts where you can gorge on everything from roast turkey, pork sorpotel, plum cakes, to stuffed chicken, and a variety of grilled seafood.

Celebrating christmas in india
Nativity scene in the Basilica Bom Jesus, Old Goa. Image: Shutterstock/Zvonimir Atletic.

Similar to Goa, Daman & Diu‘s strong Portuguese connection leads the union territory into celebrating Christmas with great fervour. If you wish to spend your holiday season surrounded by festivities but without the flocks of tourists, arrive at the island enclave where you can experience an array of cultural shows, unique Corrindinho dance performances, and illuminated lanterns filling up the sky. On Christmas eve, many families put up a Nativity scene on display and gifts are exchanged at the midnight mass of St Paul’s Church.

If you wish to experience grand celebrations, fly down to Kerala. The coastal state loves its Christmas cheer and it shows in its daily door-to-door carol singing that starts weeks in advance, elaborate Nativity scenes outside churches, three masses a day, month-long fasting rituals, and noteworthy Christmas décor at almost every household. Traditional dishes like neyyappam, kappa biryani, steaming hot stew, homemade wines, and of course, rum-infused cakes are spread out on the tables, along with a variety of seafood. Additionally, people make traditional cribs even at their homes, owing to the local custom.

Celebrating christmas in india
Homemade plum cake is a must at Christmas feasts in Kerala. Image: Courtesy Canva Pro.

Not far away, is the quaint French town of Puducherry that comes to life every December with vibrant Christmas decorations and a festive mood that stays on till the new year arrives. Neat quiet beaches, breathtaking architecture, fascinating street art, and quintessential French cuisine welcome guests who dream of a unique Christmas. The bedecked town strongly believe in keeping age-old traditions alive like hanging baubles and trinkets on giant Christmas trees, swapping presents, and attending midnight masses at its many extravagant churches. Do make time for an evening stroll to the illuminated Marche de Noel or the famous Christmas Market here offering everything from tinsels to baked goodies.

In Mumbai, streets and houses especially in areas such as Bandra’s villages, Orlem, and Khotachi Wadi, are lit up with bright, vibrant lights and bedecked markets reflect the festive spirit that takes over the maximum city. Expect attractive discounts at stores, fiestas at every other corner, Santa visits, choir and carol performances, midnight masses, and a buzzing nightlife that just refuses to simmer down! Visit one of the luxury hotels to enjoy a fancy Christmas brunch, sip on mulled wine, or munch on fresh homemade bakes.

Celebrating christmas in india
Illuminated decorative lanterns on sale at a Christmas market in Mumbai. Image: Shutterstock/Halawi.

Last but not the least, Shillong, Meghalaya’s peppy capital, too celebrates Christmas with festive fervour. For an entire month, the scenic natural beauty of the city is matched with extensive decorations and illuminations. Friends are invited home, carol singing mixes in the crisp mountain air, families dine together on traditional Christmas dishes like dohneiiong (pork in black sesame paste), jastem (fluffy flavoured rice), doh shiang (minced beef cutlet), brandy fruit cake, and more. Bands play gospel music, people get dressed to the nines in traditional garb, and visits to orphanages, hospitals, and old-age homes are considered as crucial as attending a mass in churches.

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