The land of diversity has insanely diverse customs that are one-of-a-kind. And here we find out those myriad ways in which Christmas is celebrated in India.
India is a potpourri of cultures, where festive traditions merge to create something new. Chocolates for Diwali gifting and kheer for Christmas, are just a few examples of how the melting pot of cultures blend to create a brand new tradition.
Being a British colony until 1947, some English traditions continue to stay on in India albeit with desi tweaks. For instance, Indian kids don't have a Santa Claus, we have Christmas Baba, Christmas Thaathaa or even Natal Bua. Here are a few traditions that are unique only to the Indian subcontinent.
In Hindi it's a 'big day', literally
December 25 is celebrated as Christmas all over the world but in India, it is known as 'Bada Din' (Long Day in Hindi). The reason is very scientific actually. December 22 marks the beginning of the winter solstice when the day gets shorter and nights longer. So, December 25 is the longest day in the southern hemisphere due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis and thus, 'bada din'.
More than 29 ways to say Merry Christmas
Though the Indian Christian population is the majority in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh as well as coastal Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Christmas greetings are unique to each state in the country. In Gujarat, the wishes are Anandi Natal or Khushi Natal, Bengal says Shubho Bôṛodin, for Tamil Nadu it is Kiṟistumas Vāḻttukkaḷ and in Konkani, it's Khushal Borit Natala. You get the drift, we have more than 29 ways to wish Merry Christmas.
Candles and diyas
A custom more prevalent in South India is to light small clay lamps for the occasion, just like Diwali. Lights are a big part of these celebrations as paper lanterns, often in the shape of stars are used to deck up the houses. While balloons and paper buntings have become a popular choice of decoration in modern times, some Indian homes still use mango leave garlands to accessorise the house. Some places even have firework displays to mark the occasion.
We don't have snowmen
While the rest of the globe enjoys a snowy festive season, the tropical Christmas trees in India make do with innovative alternatives to snow. From cotton wool to thermocol, our trees are decked with makeshift snow. Hotter states where there are no fir trees, banana or mango trees are decorated. The hallways of Indian homes are decked with mango leaves garlands for the festival.
Kuswar and Chakli replace Christmas cake
Though plum cakes are the mainstay of Indian Christmas celebrations, different states have other special dishes just for the occasion. Goa leads the roost with the signature vindaloo as well as 22 different dishes just for the festival called Kuswar that includes Perada (a confection made from green guavas and sugar), Neuries (Deep fried dough mixed with coconut, cashew nuts, raisins and cardamom), Bebinca (a baked dessert), Doce (sweet made with chickpeas and coconut) and many more.
Mizoram celebrates with Kaukswe (a curry noodles cuisine), Nagaland with traditional smoked pork, Assam has Khar (a red rice and pulses dish) for Christmas and Arunachal Pradesh celebrates with a spicy porridge called Zan.
In Kerala, the Christmas special dish is Toddy Appam served with meat stew.
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Last Updated 24, Dec 2019, 8:08 PM