Santa Claus and Christmas Traditions Around the World: India Edition
Here at House of Kringle, how Christmas is celebrated around the world is always on our minds. For those of us living in colder climates, like the North Pole, a Christmas without snow and ice on the roads is nearly unimaginable. And yet, there are places where Christmas is actually celebrated in Summer weather!
Today, we are taking you on a journey to one of these places. We are off to India! Let me just prepare the sleigh.
Absolutely! While Christmas isn't as prominent in India as other festivals due to the relatively small population of Christians, Christmas celebrations are happening in December. However, as India has over 1 billion people living in it, even a tiny Christian population of 2.3% makes up a whopping 25 million people.
Due to the commercialization of Christmas and general Western influences, many people from all different religions celebrate Christmas in India. That means that no matter where you are in the country, you'll be able to find some Christmas cheer to uplift your spirit and lighten your mood.
Side Note: In October or November, one of the biggest Indian festivals, Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated. It is a Hindu festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. While many people are waiting for Santa to visit on Christmas eve, people await the goddess Lakshmi to bless their home with financial prosperity on Diwali. She prefers following drawings of little feet to lead her into the house to cookies and milk, though!
How is Christmas Celebrated in India?
Christmas in India is referred to as Bada Din or big day, and midnight mass is part of many people's Christmas eve traditions. The churches are decked out in vibrant poinsettias and sparkling candles.
Afterward, there is a huge feast spent with family and friends. One traditional Indian Christmas dish is a biryani made with rice and meat. Consider serving up some fragrant biryani for your own Christmas celebrations!
For dessert, people celebrating Christmas in India have kheer, a traditional dessert made with either rice, vermicelli, or cracked wheat. It's comparable to a thinner version of rice pudding and has raisins and nuts mixed in.
Christmas Gift Traditions in India
Gifts follow the delicious meal, andSanta often delivers them from a horse-drawn cart (sorry, reindeer!). Due to the many languages spoken in different parts of India, you'll hear Santa referred to as every Christmas Baba (Hindi), Christmas Taathaa (Tamil), Natal Bua (Marathi for Christmas Elder Man), and much more.
As people prepare for Christmas in India, many receive new clothes as gifts in preparation for the festivities. We all want to look our best.
Christmas Decorations in India
In India, families often decorate their homes with banana or mango leaves rather than a Christmas tree. This is because mango trees are considered especially sacred in India, and their leaves are used to decorate homes on every holy occasion. Additionally, you'll find small clay oil-burning lamps dotted throughout the house to symbolize baby Jesus as the light in the world.
Sometimes people also add cotton wool to their Christmas decor to imitate the look of snow.
Where is Christmas Celebrated in India?
As we mentioned, you'll be able to find Christmas cheer wherever you go. However, some cities have larger celebrations than others due to more significant Christian populations.
Some cities where Christmas is celebrated in India are:
Christmas in Goa
Christmas truly comes alight in India! You'll find the gorgeous old Portuguese architecture churches overflowing with people and Christmas carols being sung in the streets of Goa. If you're in the area, check out the fireworks shows on Anjuna Beach, Arambol Beach, Calangute Beach, and Vagator Beach. Christmas beach parties are a massive part of the Indian Christmas celebrations in Goa.
Christmas in Kolkata
Check out Kolkata's Park Street for beautiful light displays. The Kolkata Christmas festival takes place on the same street every year, and you'll find food stalls, cultural exhibitions, and Christmas choirs singing.
Christmas in Mumbai
Christmas in Mumbai is centered around the impressive Wodehouse Church or the Cathedral of the Holy Name. This is where you'll discover the grandest Christmas celebrations in India. Especially their midnight mass is something to behold.
Another place in Mumbai where you'll find enthusiastic Christmas celebrations is Matharpacady village. This 200-year-old quaint village is beautifully lit up and decorated.
Christmas in Delhi
Delhi is the place for celebrations and parties. And while some people do stay home and enjoy the more quiet side of Christmas in India, many others party it up! At the Hyatt Regency, for example, there is always a Christmas carnival filled with a mix of western and Indian Christmas, including a tree lighting ceremony, a visit to Santa's grotto, and Christmas carols.
Christmas in Kerala
Christmas starts strong with the usual traditions on Christmas Eve, but something Kerala does that nowhere else seems to be the burning of a Santa effigy during New Year's Eve. This festive burning concludes the Christmas festivities and launches the New Year. Don't worry; there's nothing sinister going on here! The burning of Pappanji (Santa) represents new beginnings and good triumphing over evil.
Christmas in Pondicherry
Does the name of this place sound far from any Indian language? You'd be correct because Pondicherry is a former French colony and India's most European place to celebrate Christmas. Here you'll find mulled wine, yule logs, and French-themed Christmas services at church.
We hope you enjoyed this look at how Christmas is celebrated in India. Do you have a favorite tradition you learned about? Is there anything we've missed or something that surprised you? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
As always, a very merry Christmas to one and all from us here at House of Kringle!
Still on the hunt to learn more about how Christmas is celebrated worldwide? We've also spoken about how Christmas is celebrated in Ghana over here.