Monday, 26 December 2011

How is Christmas celebrated in India?

Christmas is celebrated all over the world with pomp and joy.  Each country has a special way of celebrating this auspicious festival.  The month of December becomes a month of celebrating, of giving and enjoying.  The last days of the year are spent on traveling and partying and going merry.

In India too, Christmas is a season where people share greetings and visit each other.

The celebration starts from the 24th of December and continue well till the 31st December night.  The birth of the holy saint is celebrated in almost every state and villages where Christian community resides. The churches are filled with enthusiastic families with their little kids as they dress up in their best attire and offer prayers in special masses organized by the churches.  In urban cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai the environment of Christmas is built up well before the actual day.  The streets and malls are decorated with lights and Christmas decorations.  The customers are attracted by various purchase schemes and discounts by the shopkeepers to attract more buyers.  Christmas is a festival of giving gifts to your dear ones and as such people go on a spending spree on these days.  Large Christmas trees are decorated with lights and Christmas ornaments at various hotels so that people get the feel of Christmas.  The local markets offer a variety of gifts and decorative articles for people to choose from.

In the household, the celebrations start well in advance as families get together to clean the house, at times painting it.  The old and unwanted things and articles are thrown out or given to charity missions.  This is the time for purchasing and shopping for various gifts, clothes and new articles.  Gifts are bought for the relatives and friends.  It is the time for family reunions for a number of families.

As the special day comes near, menus are planned and the women get busy in culinary arts as preparations are done for that Christmas dinner.  The main attraction is, of course, the Christmas cake and cookies.

Christmas trees are decorated with various ornaments and lights along with gifts too.  The kids help out the adults in decorating the trees.

Cultural differences are set aside as neighbors and friends come together to help out and enjoy with the Christian families for planning out a grand Christmas party.

In India, each state has their unique festival celebrations.  In the southern states of Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the emphasis is more on lighting and decoration with clay lamps as it has an influence of Hinduism.  Banana and mango trees are decorated instead of pine trees which are not easily available.  In urban cities like Mumbai, the emphasis is more on decoration and enjoyment, mainly with friends and family members. 

The real flavor of Christmas can be seen in States like Goa and Kerala.  These are Christian dominated states and as such Christmas is celebrated as a state festival over here.

Goa is the main epicenter of Christmas celebrations in India.  Not only Indian but tourists all over the world converge upon Goa in the Christmas season to take part in one of the most exhilarating celebrations of the year.  The best of dance and music festivities are organized at various beaches of Goa.  People attend the midnight mass known as ‘Missa de Galo’ and offer their prayers.  Goa is also famous for the carnival which follows the festive season.

The celebrations in Goa are similar to that of most western countries as Goa has a Portuguese influence and a large number of Roman Catholic populations.  The entire state of Goa is decorated with pomp and gaiety and an extravanza that you should not miss in your lifetime.

On the other hand, Kerala too has a number of Christian families who enjoy Christmas in a very traditional way which is quite opposite to that of Goa.  Here people tend to make it a family affair.  Going to the midnight mass and enjoying a family reunion is the main aspect of celebration in Kerala.  Families light and decorate their houses as on ‘Diwali’ festivals of the Hindus.  Parties are a family business rather than that of partying out on the streets.  But still Kerala has its unique style of celebrations.

Along with these states there are other North Eastern States like Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram or Arunachal Pradesh which too have a sizeable Christian community.  Their way of celebrating Christmas mainly consists of tribal dances and exotic local food cuisine.  There are a large number of tribal Christian communities who participate in the activities.  This part of India is worth a visit during Christmas where you can find another cultural side of a vast Indian heritage.

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