Christmas

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Date(s) - 25/12/2019
12:00 am - 11:59 pm

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Many Christians in India celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth on on Christmas Day, which is annually held on December 25. The celebrations are most noticeable in states where there are many Christians. Christmas Day is a gazetted holiday in India.

Many Christians mark Christmas Day by attending special church services, spending time with family members, wearing new clothes and eating a festive meal. Some families exchange gifts or give small presents or sweets to children. They may display small electric lamps or small clay oil-burning lamps and decorate their homes with banana or mango leaves. Some also put up a nativity scene with clay figures or a Christmas tree. Christmas trees in India are usually imitation pine trees or branches of native trees or bushes.

Some stores and malls may put up Christmas decorations and have actors playing Santa. Christmas celebrations in tourist areas and hotels may be created to emulate how Christmas Day is celebrated in the countries where tourists and travelers are from.

For Roman Catholics in India, and even for some of other denominations, midnight Christmas Eve services are highly traditional. After mass, a large feast will be enjoyed by the congregants, including authentic Indian curry dishes, and gifts will be exchanged. Many churches also decorate their premises with poinsettias and make the midnight service a candlelight service.

In South India, instead of Christmas lights illuminating houses, small clay lamps are often laid on rooftops (which are usually flat) to represent Jesus as the Light of the World. In Northwest India, the Bhil ethnic group go carolling to neighbouring villages for a whole week to retell the story of Christmas in song to all they meet.

In heavily Catholic Goa, celebrations are greatly influenced by Portugal, which once owned the state as its colony. Nativity sets are seen at nearly every Christian house in town, and large, star-shaped paper lanterns are put out to be seen by passers-by and remind them of the star that once brought the Three Wise Men to baby Jesus. There is also a tradition of making large amounts of sweets in a “consuada” just before Christmas and then delivering them as gifts to neighbors. Traditional sweets include: Christmas fruit cakes, “neuros,” which are small fried pies stuffed with dried fruit and coconut meat, and “dodol,” which is a kind of toffee treat infused with coconut and cashews.

Homes of those celebrating Christmas in India will often have “Christmas trees” of sorts, but they will probably be ornately decorated banana or mange trees. Mango leaves may also be seen in other decorations around the house. Santa Claus, often called “Father Christmas,” makes it to India to reward children with presents, provided they were well behaved the previous year. However, he delivers these gifts, not in a reindeer-pulled, flying sleigh, but in a horse-pulled cart.

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