A Glimpse Into Christmas (क्रिसमस) Traditions in India

Photo of ankita-siddiqui
3 November 2016

India is home to many cultures and religions. Bada Din (बड़ा दिन ), 25 December, is celebrated as a national holiday across the country. There is an intermingling of local customs, as people from all communities, along with Christians, indulge in merry-making on this joyous occasion. Come relish the flavor of celebration in seven Indian cities.

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In Marathi, Christmas is Śubh Nātāḷ (शुभ नाताळ). A majority of Christians in Mumbai are Roman Catholics, living in quaint cottages and Portuguese-style bungalows in localized villages known as Gaothans, a reflection of East Indian culture.

You can choose to attend the Christmas Mass at one of the following: Holy Name Cathedral-Colaba, Gloria Church-Byculla, Mount Mary’s Basilica-Bandra, Lady of Immaculate Conception-Borivali, and St. Thomas Cathedral-Fort, to name a few. Houses are lit with assortments of vibrant rope, net, string, LED chains, solar and blue lights, little Santas and lanterns. Gifts are exchanged between family members and friends. Hindus and Muslims also join in the gaiety.

Christmas decoration Select City Walk, New Delhi/ | ©Ankita Siddiqui

New Delhi

In Hindi, we wish Śubh Krisamas (शुभ क्रिसमस). People come to Delhi to experience what is lovingly called Dilli ki Sardi. Theme parties and bands singing carols greet you in almost every café and lounge bar. Relish Christmas brunches as an added reward. Visit for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gole Dak Khana Roundabout, Ashok Place. Or head to fun carnivals and fela markets at Select City Walk, Saket.

Connaught Place – truly the heart of the capital city of India. Visit anytime between 20 – 25 December. Take a day stroll, shaking hands with actors dressed as Santa Claus. Pick up traditional Yule logs, a gingerbread house, puddings, spiced loaf, and delicious flavored chocolates from Wenger’s Pastry, the oldest confectionary and bakery in the city. Enjoy sipping milk shakes from Keventer’s. The icing on the cake is shopping from some of the best brands and picking good bargains from Janpath Market.

Reindeer Art,Select City Walk, New Delhi/ | ©Ankita Siddiqui

Kolkata’s Anglo-Indian population is concentrated mainly in Bow Barracks, Elliot Road, and Ripon Street. Celebrate it Kolkatan’s way, for this is the only place on Earth where Santa arrives on a rickshaw and not on a reindeer-led sleigh.

Shubho bôṛodin (শুভ বড়দিন) begins traditionally with prayer service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Residents who have moved out of the country come back to India to celebrate with their relations. Your taste buds are in for a treat: savor home-cooked food at stalls set up by ladies of the house. Pick up your favorite baked goodies from Nahoum’s Bakery. Take a stroll down illuminated Park Street and Bow Barracks enjoying authentic cuisine at local restaurants.

Basilica Bom Jesus/ | © Sarangib/Pixabay


Get ready to be soaked in the sun and sands when you head to the tropical beaches of Goa. Tourists flock to this destination in the month of December for Christmas and New Year.

There is a deep-rooted custom of family groups going from door to door, singing Christmas carols and collecting funds ten days before 25 December. The money is donated to the poor. Homemade cakes of dried fruit and wine are a must for food lovers. Portuguese influence can be vividly felt in the famous Gothic churches, namely the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of Our Lady of Rosary, Church of St. Francis of Assisi. You will be enamored of the old world charm. Be a part of midnight Mass known, as Missa De Galo or Cock’s Crow, as it continues till early morning to the rhythm of ringing bells. Nativity scenes are recreated using clay statues and hay to welcome little Jesus in Bethlehem. Goan houses’ doorsteps twinkle throughout, with colorful stars made of wood and kite-paper. One can also participate in crib-making and star-making competitions.

For party lovers, there is amazing night life. Take a river cruise coupled with a scintillating candlelit dinner with your beloved, savoring Feni, a local Goan drink, and a mouthwatering, sumptuous buffet with live music. Go club hopping, enjoy restobars and beach shacks, and try your luck at the famous casinos.

Be a part of the biggest dance and electronic musical event of Asia, ‘Sunburn Festival,’ while you are here. The official dates are 27 – 30 December.

Kerala Backwaters/ | © Ejakob/Pixabay


33% of the population of the state of Kerala are Christians. The advent of Christianity dates back to the arrival of St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. It is the third most practiced religion here.

Conservative Catholics fast till Christmas Eve, from 1 – 24 December. Holy Mass services are held in local churches to welcome the birth of baby Jesus. Little children light candles and sing carols with their families. The local influence can be seen in lighting clay lamps on top of flat roofs of houses. Here, fir trees give way to banana and mango trees lit up with lights, stars, toffees, and colorful baubles. Handmade greetings cards and gifts are exchanged between kin, friends, and neighbors. Turkey and plum cakes vie for attention vis-a-vis local dishes like Acchapam cookies, Kappa stew, Kappa biryani, chicken or mutton stews, and Appams. Do not forget to book a cruise on a Rice Barge to explore its famous backwaters.

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The largest gathering of Santa Claus, called ‘Christmas Papa‘ (क्रिसमस पापा), was achieved by 18,112 people during an event organised by Thrissur Citizenry & Thrissur Archdiocese (India) for Buon Natale Programme 2014 at Nagar Saktan Thampuran Ground, Thrissur, Kerala, India, on 27 December 2014. (Credit : Guinness Book of World Records)

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Yes, White Christmas in India is a dream come true! For that you need to head to Manali, a beautiful hill station in Himachal Pradesh. Starry skies light up snow-clad mountains, serving as your backdrop. Hotels are often completely sold out, so please book in advance. Try staying in a log hut to sizzle up your stay. Bonfires, DJ parties, gala dinners in apple orchards, and snow man building contests for kids are not to be missed.


For some, Christmas is spiritual, and they look for a quiet place to spend quality family time. The quaint Union Territory of Puducherry is for you. A former French colony, it has a decent expat population. It is often called ‘Mini France.’

The churches, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Church of our Lady Angels, recreate the scenes from the night of Jesus Christ’s birth: sheep and shepherds, old Joseph, young Virgin Mary, Holy Child nestled in the cradle of hay, fairies, and the Three Wise Men. Be a part of choir singing and a mass prayer ceremony.

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Visit the French Quarter, and enjoy the scenic, tree-lined streets with colonial villas and chic boutiques. Walk down the Seaside Promenade and enjoy a lavish spread of seafood for lunch and dinner. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded by Sri Aurobindo Ghose and Mira Alfassa (known as the ‘Mother’), is the ultimate soul-awakening destination. Combine it with a visit to Auroville township, also known as ‘the City of Dawn.’

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