One of the best things about growing up in our country is that all the festivals that are celebrated. As a multicultural country, each festival is celebrated with lots of happiness and enthusiasm. A few of the popular festivals in India are Diwali, Holi, and Eid. However, you may be surprised to know that India is home to a significant population of Christians, who, along with the rest of the country, celebrate Christmas with their own rituals and traditions.
I grew up in a Christian family in India, and as children, we always looked forward to the Christmas season. Christmas in India is particularly religious, with church services playing a large role in celebrating this festival. The preparations start on Advent Sunday. Churches start planning their celebrations and masses, and families start planning their food, sweets, and decorations.
1. Colors & Lights
Christmas is a colorful festival, at this time of the year the local stores, markets, and malls are swathed in multicolored twinkling fairy lights, paper streamers, and flowers. Churches are decked using dazzling light shows and look magnificent in the night. Most families put up a Christmas tree. Most of the decorations and ornaments are handmade, and stars are everywhere. Christmas stars are put all over the house and out on the roads to welcome friends, neighbors, and family to our home at Christmas.
2. Christmas Food in India
Preparations for food also start early. Christmas specialties range from extremely delicious intense Christmas fruitcakes to rose cookies. At most households, making sweets is a family affair, as all the women in the family get together and make them over a period of time before Christmas. This is the time when we were also allowed to stay up late with our cousins and friends while our mothers spend time around the kitchen.
3. Christmas Crib and Carols
Along with food, the nativity scenes are an important part of our Christmas traditions. The cribs are usually planned very early in the month, as there was always friendly competition in the neighborhoods and between churches as to whose crib was the most elaborate. A lot of planning goes into making the crib, by growing paddy plants in small trays, and collecting bricks and sand. We eagerly wait for the day our schools close for Christmas break, as that is when we take out all our nativity statues and go about creating beautiful, meticulous cribs, glittering with lights, fields, bridges, and waterfalls.
Another aspect of Christmas that is popular is the singing of Carols like "Silent Night", "Jingle Bells", etc. At our place you can hear all these and many more Carols playing right from the beginning of the month to get us into the Christmassy mood.
4. Christmas Eve
By the time Christmas Eve arrived, the whole house is abuzz with activity. Right from preparation of meals, to hanging decorations, to putting up the Christmas tree, playing carols, friends and family visiting, to last minute alterations to Christmas clothes. Everything is submerged in the excitement of the festival.
One of our most beautiful Christmas traditions is that of the midnight mass. Churches start their services with carol singing, after which the Christmas mass is held. Everyone is dressed up in their best clothes and after the service, everyone moves around the church, socializing and wishing everybody "Merry Christmas". The evenings are usually spent visiting family or friends, and sharing a piece of the lovely rich fruitcake and other delicacies.
5. Christmas Morning
In India, we usually do not do the bit on sharing Christmas presents. Christmas mornings are all about lovely breakfasts, times spend with family and friends, sharing with the less privileged, church service, followed by a sumptuous lunch. After all, Christmas is a time for family, friends, and food. So, what would be lovelier than being surrounded by tradition, love, and happiness during this joyous season.
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