Christmas is a festival that is not confined to the USA and Europe. It is celebrated across much of the world. The different ways different cultures celebrate Christmas is interesting.

India is known for the festival of lights and festival of colors. Few people know that India’s Christian population celebrates Christmas with traditional fervor. The northeast states, Goa, and southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have large Christian populations, while they are in minority in other states. There is the usual Midnight Mass, and exchange of gifts on Christmas Eve followed by other festivities.

Carol singing is also very popular.

Best places in India to celebrate Christmas

Kerala – This state tops the list for Christmas celebrations. It is widely believed that the first Malayalee (people of Kerala) families were converted by a disciple of St. Judas who landed in Kerala in 52 A.D. Even Vasco De Gama, who discovered the sea route from Portugal to India, had brought missionaries with him and had stayed in Kerala waters for a long time.

Kochi, a city in Kerala boasts of a number of churches, some historic with great heritage. The Cochin Carnival is celebrated during this time. There are smaller bazaars or pop up markets for people at all times of day and night. Famous boat races of Kerala also take place during this time.

Other cities in Kerala which boast of church celebrations, carnivals, shopping and tradition include Trivandrum, beach towns of Kovalam, and the hill resort town of Munnar which is mainly plantation country, and towns of Wayanad and Kollam.

Christmas is celebrated across Goa. The friendliest places to celebrate Christmas here are Baga, and Calangute, apart from the riverfront city of Panjim.

Goa is very busy and full of activities during Christmas. A 400 yr. old church hosts midnight masses and you can burn the old man’s effigy – a tradition that is continued to until now. There is an atmosphere of carnival and party on the streets during Christmas. For quieter folks, there are candlelit dinners on a cruise in Panjim or silent parties at the Palolem beach.

Puducherry, located on the south-east coast of the country has a strong French influence. The town of Auroville is usually brightly lit, though celebrations are quiet and muted. There are numerous churches for midnight mass.

Daman and Diu – There is a strong Portuguese influence here which is evidenced in the Christmas celebrations. The people here put up nativity plays, Portuguese dances, and other cultural programs. There are a couple of churches as well, in keeping with the size of the population.

Shillong – Here, people are largely Christians, having converted from animism during British colonial rule. Christmas is usually celebrated in a traditional manner with feasts, lots of music and prayers.

Public functions also take place across the hill districts.

Other places in India, where you can celebrate Christmas include Mumbai, Kolkatta, Delhi, and Bangalore. Smaller towns across the country largely ignore the festival unless it has a Christian population.

Food and treats during Christmas in India

In Kerala, Christmas feasts are full of traditional sweets and stews. They include cookies and pancakes made from rice and gram flour, marzipan sweets, and plum cakes.

In Goa, fruit and plum cakes are a popular fare. Plum cakes are traditionally cooked with rum. Deep fried sweets and savories are cooked in large amounts and stored as soon as the season starts. Banana, palm sugar, coconut milk, jaggery and sesame seeds are key ingredients in the traditional sweets in the country.

In the northeast part of India, the Tangkhul tribe in Manipur starts Christmas with a slaughter of pigs on Christmas Eve. This is an old Romanian custom. Traditional sweets and savories along with cakes mark Christmas. The local rice wine and beer are popular beverages along with eggnog and hot chocolate.