Come winter and its celebration time all over the world !
Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. In Western Europe and that part of the world there was this sense of rejoice among people with the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.
Historically, the special day of 25th December is celebrated as a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial carnival. This is amazing to witness at least two billion people around the world with varied culture, background, tradition, language and even religion , have been observing and celebrating a season of festival around 25th December each year.
Although the fat red dressed old man with bags full of gifts has never been as popular in India as in the Western countries, but this time of the year being the season of festivity and holiday season for all Indians along with a approximately 3 % of Christian population and others, these days Christmas in India is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and excitement.
Traditionally, especially in the major cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi etc hundreds of families get together and walk round the streets to be part of the midnight pass, which is followed by an exchange of gifts and elaborate Christmas feast of delicacies. Churches are decorated with lights and Christmas adornments.
Besides, the customary rituals, these days Christmas is celebrated across India with elaborate preparation that often involved travel, get together, music, dance and exchange of gifts.
We will share with you a few of the cities in India which are most popular among travelers when it comes to celebrating Christmas with all its essence and vigor.
When it comes to the travel destination in Christmas the first name that comes to any Indian’s mind is Goa.
Anyone who have experienced the 25th Dec in Goa, would remember the magic in the air- the sound of church bells, the lights, the occasional fire crackers, the scent of the candles, music of carols and many more.
One can see even days before Christmas, many groups of carol singers, dressed in colourful costumes including Santa, roam about raising funds for the community. Colourful five-pointed stars made from paper stretched over a wooden frame are hung outside homes and businesses. On Christmas Eve many Goan families gather for a traditional feast before attending Midnight Mass at their local church, while Christmas Day is reserved for family and the exchange of gifts at home. In the lead-up to New Year’s Eve, local children get together and make an effigy of an old man which is then torched on a bonfire at midnight, symbolising the end of the old year.
Midnight Mass in Goa is extremely popular Christmas tradition. Travellers can take part of these events at any of the churches on the night of the Christmas Eve. Each and everyone weather locals or tourists become part of the celebration and happiness. This is this special mood in the air that attracts travelers from all over India to visit the smallest state of the country to experience the special night with friends, family and loves ones in order to make it a memory for ever.
As elsewhere in the world, Christmas in Goa is a time for eating. From conventional roast turkey to sweet, Portuguese-influenced treats such as bebinca (a layer cake made from eggs, flour, coconut milk and butter) to Goa’s special Christmas dodol (a festive, toffee-like sweet), as well as all manner of curry (vindaloo originates from here!) and international staples. Palm-thatched beach shack restaurants line most beaches, serving fresh-from-the-nets seafood, Goan delicacies and sunset cocktails right through the Christmas season, and many tourist-oriented restaurants and hotels also lay on a traditional English, European or Russian Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.
“I always thought of Christmas where the world is aglitter with snow. In this quaint old Portuguese influenced charming town, it’s the crashing waves and balmy sea breezes that herald the season. The spirit is the same, air redolent with gingerbread aroma, sparkling with smiles, church bells and nativity scenes, and warm hearts, all ingredients for a merry holiday. “
Sona Gupa Joshi , New Delhi
The city of Joy with all its glory and pride for being the ‘food capital ‘ or ‘city of culture ‘ etc is also the place to be for Christmas .
The city that loves to celebrate, eat, sing and dance has long since turned the Christmas into a carnival of their own. The spirit of Durgapujo and diwali, in its smaller version carries on to the night of 25th Dec every year, when the gorgeous lanes of Park Streets would remind anyone of mini version of London Streets on Christmas day. One can take part in the Midnight masses at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Old Mission Church, Church of Christ The King, St. John’s Church, and St. Thomas Church etc.
The night of the Christmas fills in with the mood of carnival and joy. Women in sparkling saris as well as dresses usher tiny children bundled in puffy winter clothes through the crowd. Girls in LED devil horns and bunny ears, people armed with massive cameras and lenses, group of friends engaging in street music and guitar , retro-bars and clubs full with crowd dancing and singing – the spirit of celebration would take no time to engulf everyone around.
It is not wise to select a few foods or places to eat in the “city of food “. Still, to name a few, Peter Cat and Mocambo reign supreme when it comes to a nice dinner out on Park Street. For your sweet teeth, head to Nahoum & Sons in New Market or Flurys on Park Street to stock up on all kinds of Christmas cakes and sweets. But, a note of caution, when it is Christmas, be prepared to wait in the queue for long period to grab your table.
Christmas, popularly called “Barodin” at Kolkata, is celebrated with so much pomp and joy in Kolkata. Every year i make it a point to visit Park Street, the most lit up place in the city on that day. Crowds of people, loud music, different stalls selling Christmas goodies and the aroma of freshly baked cake set the mood of celebration.. Then who can miss the midnight mass at St Pauls Cathedral. Also visit to the Bow Barracks brings one into Christmas mood. The enthusiastic spirit of people of Kolkata is the WOW factor for me.
Debjani Mitra , Kolkata
India’s Little France makes for a beautiful place for a traditional Christmas. The popular Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus must not be missed during the festive season. They have lovely Christmas decorations and lights and the Mass is held in Tamil.
As soon as it turns December, the Christmas songs start getting airtime and celebrations in Pondy kick off with decorated churches blaring out the classic carols. Pondicherry is home to many extravagant churches, a few of which Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of Angels), The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Church of the Assumption, The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, and Church of Our Lady of Good Health, go all out when it comes to the December festivities. Spanning over, near about ten nights, building up to the Christmas Eve, a series of Christmas music concerts take place by the beach, organized by the Singspirations choir. Light up your candles and attend the midnight mass in one of the aforementioned churches for that authentic Christmas feel.
Hotels and restaurants around town host sumptuous Christmas dinners and brunches with five course meals and traditional favourites. Being a popular global tourist destination one can really widen the choice of gastronomical delights in Pondicherry.
Hidden from the mainstream hype and extravaganza of the popular tourist places there lies the kingdom of clouds-the state of Meghalaya. Literally behind the thick layers of December winter fog nestled in the mountains there is the small beautiful town Shillong- as they say , ‘ a small town with a big personality’.
The character and charisma of the city touches a different level during Christmas. The Christmas in Shillong is a beautiful celebration. A traveler will find the most dazzling lights and decorations in the heart of the city in Police Bazar. Local bakeries overflow with people eager to have a bite of the seasonal delicacies. Christmas day is reserved for families to feast on homemade traditional dishes.
What adds to the mood of the celebration all around is the sound of carols and instruments all around the mountain city. Knwn as the “the music capital of India” Christmas is quintessentially a melodious affair in Shillong. From carol singing to multiple live gigs, the city finds a rhythm in every corner. Numerous bands and artists play gospel music during this time. Even in homes and streets, people come together to sing traditional hymns and carols. The cathedrals would be full with families with children of all ages to join the midnight mass.
Like anywhere else in Christmas, families lay out a generous spread for visitors, taking great pride in the quality of the food.
The most popular dish is dohneiiong, a delightful pork-based dish that is dark green in color with the characteristic taste of black sesame paste. As choice cuts of pork cook, the sesame releases gentle oil that perfectly complements the mild spices. Jastem (fluffy rice cooked with ginger, onions and turmeric) and Putharo (steamed rice pancakes cooked only in earthen pots) are the main accompaniments. The very traditional dish Jadoh Snam (Ja means rice, and doh means meat) of rice prepared with pigs blood is still a favorite with Khasis, but most Christians will prepare it with rice, pork stock and turmeric or Jastem. Doh Shiang is another favorite, a minced beef cutlet that will go down easy with most (non-vegetarian, beef-eating) palates.
Xmas during my childhood in Shillong is inscribed with golden words in my heart. I have not experienced it anywhere. For me, Xmas in Shillong is – white netted frock with white bellies shoe and white netted socks, Xmas mass procession at laimukhra in front of the church, lots of plum cakes, carols sunk in guitar tune around bonfire at every nook and corner in those winter and foggy nights, at last an evening with a hot cup of coffee with entire family… possibly the clan as it’s all about being with the whole family. I loved Xmas in Shillong.
Panchtapa Goswami, Bangalore