Like most countries in the world, Christmas in India is a joyful holiday season. Christians form a minority, comprising about 2.3% of the total Indian population, but India’s 1.4 billion population means you’ll find a sizeable Christian population, almost equivalent to the population of Canada and more than the population of Australia.
Christian communities in India are diverse and are spread across many Indian states and each community celebrates Christmas with all the bells and whistles. Depending on where you are in India, you’ll find Christmas celebrations in the form of midnight masses, beautifully decorated houses, churches, malls and public places decked out with Christmas trees, hanging star-shaped lanterns and neighbourhoods singing classical Christmas carols in English and local languages.
It’s not just Christians who celebrate the revered festival. You will be pleasantly surprised to see everyone from all religions and backgrounds celebrate the Christmas season and participate in festivities together. Children love Christmas as it brings Christmas holidays in the last week of December giving them a respite from school. Even adults get into the holiday mood as most corporations in India allow workers a lighter workload during the last week of December.
Some even organise year-end and Christmas retreats, or simply allow their employees a much-needed vacation for the entire Christmas week. All this adds to the already festive mood carried over from Diwali in November and to the year-end revelry. Many cities even have Christmas carnivals where Christmas celebrations in India are marked by rallies, parades, outdoor and indoor sports competitions and Christmas markets.
- Christmas In India
- Top Tours
- Christmas Is An Important Holiday
- How Does Christmas Merge With Indian Culture
- Best Christmas Markets In India
- Unique Culinary Traditions In India At Chrismas
- Popular Destinations To Visit During Christmas
- Travel Tips During Christmas
Christmas In India
Christmas Is An Important Holiday
The Origin of Christmas Celebrations in India
Many Indian citizens follow Christianity as India has a long history with European colonial powers.
The influence of Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British in Indian history and culture is visible when you visit cities like Goa, Mumbai, Puducherry, Kolkata, Kerala, Chennai, Andaman islands and others which have numerous churches, forts, French style cafes and colonial-era buildings.
These cities in India also have large Christian population who follow traditions, cuisines and culture passed down from colonial times.
How Is Christmas Celebrated In Various Regions?
Christmas happens during the winter season in India but if you are visiting the southern or coastal parts of India, you can enjoy the mild and pleasant winters and party atmosphere.
Northern India has colder winters, so be ready to put on more than just a t-shirt or a top to be warm.
Depending on where you travel in India, you’ll encounter diverse Christmas celebrations.
In Goa, a substantial number of Christian population means you can see many beautifully decorated churches in Old Goa and Panaji like Basilica of Bom Jesus, the large and beautiful Se Cathedral, Church of St.
Cajetan, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and many others.
Many areas in Goa will have the sweet scent of local treats in the air.
Kerala is already popular for its backwaters, beaches, wellness retreats, hill stations and much more.
Kerala also has a significant Christian population, which means if you visit during Christmas, you can experience all the Christmas fervour with colorful stars lit up outside homes, traditional sadya feasts, lively church processions, midnight masses and much more.
Mumbai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India and a great place to visit during Christmas.
You will be able participate in multicultural celebrations, grand midnight Mass at historic churches and enjoy Christmas decorations, treats and celebrations throughout the city.
In Northeast India that includes the seven sister states of Northern India, you’ll witness strong community bonds during Christmas, with carol singing and feasting.
You will often find church activities mixed with cultural celebrations throughout the region including nativity processions that are organized to depict the birth of Jesus.
Most metropolitan cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Bengaluru will impress you with their cosmopolitan Christmas spirit, decorated malls, shops and public places and diverse celebrations.
Puducherry will charm you with its blend of Indian and French Christmas traditions, complete with beautifully adorned streets and delicious pastries in the French Quarter.
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How Does Christmas Merge With Indian Culture
Decorations and Christmas Attire In India
Churches and public attractions in India are well-decorated during Christmas and are a treat to visit.
You’ll find a number of perfectly decorated Christmas trees, some of them many floors high in malls and churches.
Every Christian household uses colorful Christmas lights, star shaped lanterns, Christmas wreaths on the front door, ribbons, garlands, stockings and other paraphernalia, decked up front yards or balconies, all of which create a very festive and happy atmosphere for all the passers-by.
If you are visiting malls or churches, you may come across adults dressed in Santa Claus costume, giving away Christmas gifts and candies to children, fun competitions like singing, drawing or rangoli organized for youngsters, or just carol singing groups and Christmas music creating a Christmas vibe all around.
Christmas trees of various sizes, shapes and colours (especially the artificial ones) are a common sight in many households in India (even in those following other religions) as children love decorating Christmas trees with all sorts of adornments.
The lighting of candles and lamps is a significant part of Christmas decorations.
Traditional Indian diyas (oil lamps), candles, as well as colourful modern electric lights are used to illuminate homes and churches.
In some regions, families decorate their entrances rangoli patterns with colored powders and place diyas in the center.
On Christmas Day, men and women wear traditional Indian outfits common in the region.
Women in Southern India often wear saris while many in the north wear salwar kameez or western wear, while men may opt for kurta pajamas or suits.
Younger generation commonly wear Western-style clothing on Christmas.
This includes dresses, shirts, and trousers in festive colors.
Red and green are the traditional colors associated with Christmas attire in India, so you’ll often see people wearing sarees, dresses or accessories like scarves, hats, and ties in these colors.
Community Gatherings and Gift Giving
One of the most significant community gatherings you’ll see during Christmas is the midnight Mass at churches.
You will be welcome to attend this special service, which often features carol singing and a sermon.
In smaller communities, you will find communal feasts to be the places where everyone in the community comes together to celebrate the festival irrespective of their beliefs.
Depending on where you are, you can enjoy various events and programs during the Christmas season including competitions, traditional dances and skits, musical performances by bands, beach parties and a lot more.
Whether you are here for office work or for vacation, Christmas is when you’ll receive a lot of gifts.
You can expect goodies, gifts, discounts, offers and even play Secret Santa with your office colleagues during this time.
Best Christmas Markets In India
Christmas season is famous for its holiday spirit, community gatherings and its Christmas markets across many Indian cities.
Whichever city you are in, you will have a fun time at an annual Christmas market where you can shop and enjoy the very many Christmas activities, food stalls and shopping options.
Delhi Christmas Markets
In Delhi, visit the Dilli Haat, a popular open-air market that hosts a vibrant Christmas market where you can shop for handicrafts, traditional Indian clothing, Christmas decorations, and enjoy a variety of cultural performances and street food.
The German Christmas market is another market known for German food, shopping outlets, decor and fun activities for children.
Bengaluru Christmas Market
In Bengaluru, check out the annual Sunday Soul Sante where you can buy gifts, try delicious food and even shop or souvenirs.
Puducherry Christmas Market
Puducherry’s annual European tradition of hosting Marche de Noel makes it a must visit destination during Christmas.
You can find many of the city’s best outlets here and a number of performances from bands.
Kolkata Christmas Market
In Kolkata, check out the famous Park Street that has Christmas decorations all around.
You will find a number of restaurants offering Christmas feasts and buffets, so make sure you have enough space to try out the local delicacies as well as international cuisines.
Goa Christmas Market
Goa is an amazing and most sought after destination during Christmas jam packed with both Indian and international tourists.
While each area has its own Christmas market and holiday vibe, visit the Calangute market square, Anjuna flea market or the Margao market for festive shopping and Christmas feasts.
Hillstation Christmas Markets
If you want to experience a snowy Christmas, visit the hill station of Shimla or Manali.
You can enjoy snowy winter and a colourful Christmas market with street vendors selling a variety of gifts, decorations, and traditional Christmas fare.
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Unique Culinary Traditions In India At Chrismas
Christmas in India is a time when you can try out the best of Indian cuisine along with traditional Christmas fare.
While each region or city you visit will have its unique festive dishes and tasty delights, you’ll also find many common sweet and savoury dishes that are common across the country.
The ubiquitous Plum cake, also called as “Christmas cake” in India, is a must try during the holiday season.
You will love the rich, dense cake loaded with dried fruits, nuts and spices.
Try the rum cake which is a fruit or plum cake soaked in rum or brandy, giving the cake a unique and distinct flavour.
In Southern India, kulkuls that are little sugar glazed curls made with flour, coconut milk and coated in sugar syrup.
The Goan Bebinca is a traditional layered cake made with coconut milk, eggs, butter and flour that has a caramelized flavor and a custard-like texture.
If you are a fan of cookies, try the Bolinhas that are crispy on the outside and soft inside.
These cardamom flavoured coconut and semolina cake-like cookies crumble and melt in the mouth.
Nevryos are another South Indian deep-fried sweet dumplings made by stuffing a mixture of grated coconut, semolina, sugar, and dried fruits into a thin dough pocket.
Beef and Pork dishes are famous in Kerala and Goa including dishes like beef roast, pork vindaloo and sorpotel, a spicy pork stew.
In Kerala, try the famous Rose cookies, also known as Rosettes or Achappam, which are crisp fried cookies made from flour, sugar, eggs and coconut milk.
Oh and don’t miss the Rum balls of Kolkata.
As the name suggests, these balls are made by combining crushed biscuits, cocoa powder, condensed milk, and a generous amount of rum and are great to have during a cold evening.
Popular Destinations To Visit During Christmas
If you are visiting India during Christmas season, you can be assured to beat the winter blues and end the year on a positive note.
Let’s check out some of the popular destinations to which you can pack your bags and travel to during Christmas.
One of the trendiest places you can visit during Christmas in India is Goa.
Where else can you find all-night parties on beaches, well decorated Christmas-y decor wherever you go, churches decorated with beautiful lights and flowers, Christmas markets in every area, and the sounds of children and adults singing melodious Christmas carols in midnight mass?
Enjoy the festive atmosphere at beaches and resorts, with beachside parties and events and tourists from all over the world.
The city has a lot of colonial history and Christmas traditions that are followed even today.
You will find the city celebrating Christmas almost like its own festival, with beautifully decorated churches, carol singing, cultural performances, and special church services during Christmas.
Kolkata’s love for food also makes it a great place to try unique pastries and cakes like the rum balls and many Christmas-themed sweets and candies which you can even take back home.
Puducherry, also called Little France for its French influence, is one of the best places in India for a European Christmas experience.
You will transported into a European setting with the well lit colonial-style buildings and churches, along with the beach promenade, create a charming setting for Christmas celebrations.
Visit the French Quarter for a host of festive events and parties, and do check the event schedules in advance.
Manali or Shimla, Himachal Pradesh: For a snowy Christmas, head to the hill stations of Manali or Shimla in the Himalayas.
Experience a white Christmas with snow-covered landscapes, cozy bonfires, and holiday-themed activities.
If you want to experience a multi-cultural way to celebrate Christmas and have a great holiday, you must visit Kerala.
There are many famous churches throughout the state in every city and town.
While the churches are adorned with lights and decorations, you will be amazed when you see people of all faiths and religions participate in the Christmas festivities together.
Alleppey and Kochi are popular destinations to experience the unique blend of Indian and Western Christmas traditions.
Whether you are looking to relax on a holiday or want to celebrate Christmas with locals, Kerala’s Christmas celebrations are an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Travel Tips During Christmas
Travelling to India during Christmas will be a unique and fascinating experience for you, especially if you didn’t visit India before.
Being the holiday season, you will find many tourist spots are crowded with both domestic and international tourists.
Here are some tips to make your Indian Christmas holiday safe and relaxing.
1- Book Travel and Accommodation in Advance: Christmas is a busy travel season in India, especially in popular tourist destinations. Book your flight or local travel as well as accommodation well in advance to secure your stay and get the best rates.
2- Dress according to weather and location: India has diverse climates, so pack clothing suitable for the regions you plan to visit. Northern India is colder and can require a couple or more layers to keep yourself warm. Don’t forget to bring appropriate attire for religious sites, such as modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
3- Health and Travel Insurance: Healthcare and travel costs are rising in India, do consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that covers health emergencies, trip cancellations, and baggage loss or theft.
4- Respect Local Customs: Christmas is celebrated with varying degrees of enthusiasm across India, and some areas may not have extensive decorations or festivities. Be respectful of local customs and beliefs, especially when visiting religious sites.
5- Local Cuisine: Don’t miss the opportunity to savor Indian cuisine, including festive dishes unique to the region you’re visiting.
6- Stick to bottled water and avoid consuming tap water.
7- Transportation: You can rely on India’s vast and diverse transportation network, including trains or taxi services. Use reputable transportation providers, and if using taxis, negotiate fares in advance or use metered cabs. In major cities, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Ola have pre-decided fares and are often convenient options for point to point travel.
8- Currency: The Indian currency is the Rupee (INR) and US Dollars are generally not accepted unless you’re in major hotels. You can easily exchange currency at any forex exchange, or even use an international credit card in urban areas. ATMs are also widely available where you can use your international card to withdraw Rupees.
9- Be safe: Exercising common-sense safety precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings, avoiding poorly lit areas at night, and being cautious when using public transportation will save you from trouble and keep you safe.
10- Local Festivities: Wherever you are visiting, you will have the opportunity to participate in local Christmas festivities and events. To ensure you don’t miss any events or activities which you may like, check with your front desk or local tourist offices for information on special events happening during your visit.
11- Language: English is the second most widely spoken language in India and you will always find someone who understands English in urban areas. Learn a few basic phrases in Hindi or the regional language of the area you’re visiting and you will suddenly see people appreciating your effort by giving you a good bargain or even helping you choose better.
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