How is Christmas Celebrated in India?
Christmas is celebrated in many different ways all over the world, and India is no exception. Although Christians only make up 2.3% of the population, Christmas in India is a time of great joy and festivity. But how do Indians of all religions come together to celebrate this special occasion? What is the history of Christmas in India? Let's look into how this amazing country celebrates our favorite holiday!
How does India celebrate Christmas today?
Christmas, although celebrated by a small minority, has become an increasingly popular holiday in India. However, the country's two main religions - Hinduism and Islam - mean that Christmas is not as widely celebrated as it is in other parts of the world. Christmas is not a public holiday in India, which means that many people have to work on Christmas Day. In addition, most schools and businesses remain open. This can be attributed to the fact that only around 2% of the population are Christian.
Christmas in India is celebrated with much fanfare and joy. Christmas trees are decorated, houses are strung with lights, and Christmas carols fill the air. Christmas parties are aplenty, and people of all religions come together to celebrate the holiday. For many, Christmas is a time to catching up with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and feasting on delicious food.
The majority of Christians in India live in the southern state of Kerala, with a large portion of the remaining Christians up and down the west coast and southern regions of India. This is largely due to the way India has developed as a country throughout history, as religion has played a large role in shaping the country into what it is today.
Indians who celebrate Christmas in Kerala, Goa and Mumbai celebrate Christmas in much the same way as Christians all over the world. However, instead of decorating Christmas trees Indians tend to decorate trees in their backyard - for example mango trees or coconut trees. Houses are lit brightly, but instead of traditional decorations you may see in Europe or America, Indians tend to use handmade clay lamps and paper parols that are brightly colored.
A parol shop at Christmas time in India
A little-known area in the North-East of India called Nagaland also has a large Christian population and Christmas in Nagaland is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm. Christmas trees are decorated with flowers, lights and Christmas ornaments. People sing Christmas carols and exchange gifts with family and friends. A traditional Christmas meal usually consists of chicken or beef curry, rice, vegetables and fruit salad. Christmas is also a time for feasting on delicious cakes and biscuits!
What is the history of Christmas in India?
The first recorded Christmas celebration in India took place in 1744, when a group of Syrian Christians in Kochi gathered to sing hymns and exchange gifts. However, it wasn't until 1842 that Christmas was declared a public holiday by the British colonial government. Christmas then began to spread throughout the country, particularly to the southern states where Christians largely settled.
The history of religion in India is long and complicated. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all originated in India, and there has been a continuous presence of these religions on the subcontinent for over 3,000 years. Christianity arrived in India when Jewish and Syrian Christians settled throughout the country in the 1st century AD, but it wasn't until the Portuguese colonized Goa in the 16th century that the religion began to spread. Today, Christians in India total about 30 million.
The British colonisation of India began in the early 1600s with the arrival of the East India Company. The company was initially set up to establish trade relations with India, but it quickly began to seize control of large parts of the country. By 1858, the British Crown had assumed direct control over all of India.
St Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata, India
Christmas became a popular holiday in India during the British colonial period. Christmas trees and other decorations were introduced, and Christmas parties and feasts became common. However, once independence was achieved in 1947, Christmas began to lose its popularity. Many Indians saw it as a symbol of British colonialism, and preferred to celebrate their own religious festivals instead.
However, Christmas in India is following the Western trend of Christmas becoming a less secular holiday recent years. More and more Indians are celebrating the holiday, and Christmas parties and gatherings are becoming more common. The holiday is becoming more about coming together and celebrating all we are grateful for! Christmas is still not as widely celebrated as in other countries, but it is slowly becoming more popular each year.
Christmas has not always been an easy holiday for Christians in India. In some parts of the country, Christians have faced discrimination and violence from Hindu and Muslim extremists. In 1998, for example, a group of Hindus attacked a Christmas Eve service in the state of Orissa, killing three people and injuring dozens more. Christmas has also been targeted by Islamic extremists - in 2016, for example, Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks on churches in the southern city of Chennai that left at least 44 people dead. Despite these challenges, Christmas remains an important time for Christians in India to celebrate their faith and come together as a community to eat some tasty Christmas meals!
What are some delicious foods eaten at Christmas time in India?
Christmas in India is a time for feasting on delicious food! Traditional Christmas meals usually consist of chicken or beef curry, rice, vegetables and fruit salad. Christmas is also a time for indulging in sweet treats like cakes and biscuits. Indians enjoy celebrating with a feast, however, Christmas food in India is very regional, where traditional European Christmas meals have been given an Indian flair!
Kulkul is an Indian dessert often eaten at Christmas time
Christmas would not be complete without a delicious Christmas cake! The Allahabad cake is a traditional Indian Christmas cake that originates from the city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. It is a rich, fruitcake that is often made with dried fruits, nuts, and spices. The cakes are typically dark in color and very moist. They are often decorated with icing or marzipan and can be served with a variety of toppings such as whipped cream, ice cream, or fruit sauce.
Ngaatoiba Thangba is a traditional Christmas fish curry from the state of Manipur in northeastern India. The dish is made with fresh water fish, tamarind, tomatoes, and a variety of spices. It is usually served with steamed rice and vegetables. Ngaatoiba Thangba is a popular Christmas dish in Manipur, and is often prepared for Christmas Eve dinner.
Along with the periods of colonization, alcohol was introduced as Whiskey, port and other fortified liquers. Naturally, Indian sweets can be infused with hints of alcohol! Sweets like Kulkul, kormolas, bebinca and dodol are eaten at Christmas time.
Kukul is a type of Christmas sweet that originates from the state of Kerala in southern India. It is made with rice flour, jaggery (a type of sugar), and ghee (clarified butter). Kukul is usually shaped into small balls or discs and can be served with a variety of toppings such as grated coconut, chopped nuts, or syrup. Kormolas are a type of Christmas sweet that originates from the state of Assam in northeastern India. They are made with wheat flour, jaggery, ghee, and a variety of spices. Kormolas are typically shaped into small balls or rings and can be served with whipped cream, ice cream, or fruit.
How to have the perfect Christmas day in India
6am Wake up and enjoy a cup of masala chai tea.
8am Make Christmas breakfast! Try a traditional Indian Christmas breakfast of chicken or beef curry, rice, vegetables and fruit salad.
10am Start Christmas preparations by decorating the house with lights, garlands and Christmas trees.
12pm Enjoy a delicious Christmas lunch with family and friends. Traditional Christmas meals in India usually consist of chicken or beef curry, rice, vegetables and fruit salad.
2pm Take a break from Christmas preparations and relax with a cup of masala chai tea.
4pm Finish decorating the house and get ready for Christmas Eve dinner.
6pm Attend Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends. Christmas Eve dinner is usually a feast of traditional Christmas foods like chicken or beef curry, rice, vegetables and fruit salad.
8pm Enjoy Christmas carols and Christmas stories before going to bed.
12am Midnight mass! Christmas in India is a time for attending midnight mass at church. After mass, enjoy a cup of masala chai tea before going to bed.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Whether you’re celebrating in India or some other corner of the world, we hope you have a joyous day. Did we miss anything about Christmas in India? And if you’re looking for more information on how to celebrate Christmas around the world, be sure to check out our other posts – there’s something for everyone. Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!
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