Christmas in India

Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Having said this, the population of India is over 1 Billion, so there are over 25 million Christians in India!

One of the largest Indian Christian Communities is in Mumbai. A lot of the Christians in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) are Roman Catholics.

Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, (mostly curries) and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.

Many different languages are spoken in India. In Hindi Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Śubh krisamas' (शुभ क्रिसमस); Urdu it's 'krismas mubarak' (کرسمس); in Gujarati it's 'Anandi Natal' or 'Khushi Natal' (આનંદી નાતાલ); in Sanskrit it's 'Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa'; in Bengali 'shubho bôṛodin' (শুভ বড়দিন); in Tamil it's 'kiṟistumas vāḻttukkaḷ' (கிறிஸ்துமஸ் வாழ்த்துக்கள்); in Punjabi it's 'karisama te nawāṃ sāla khušayāṃwālā hewe ' (ਕਰਿਸਮ ਤੇ ਨਵਾੰ ਸਾਲ ਖੁਸ਼ਿਯਾੰਵਾਲਾ ਹੋਵੇ); in Konkani it's 'Khushal Borit Natala' and in Malayalam it's 'Christmas inte mangalaashamsakal'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.

Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated (or whatever tree people can find to decorate!). Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes.

In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.

Christians in Mumbai often display a manger in a front window, (there's great competition in making the nativity scene). Also families go to great lengths to hang giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road. Every household also makes sure that they have a stock of home made sweets ready to visitors.

In north-west India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their own carols the whole night through. They go to surrounding villages singing to people and telling the Christmas story.

In South West India, in the state of Kerala Were, 22% of the state's 33 Million population are Christians and Christmas is important festival. Traditional Catholics fast don't eat from 1st to 24th of December - until the midnight service. Every house will be decorated with a Christmas star. During the start of the Christmas season, almost all the stationary shops will be filled with new and variety Christmas stars. People make cribs in their homes and Churches.

In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children from a horse and cart. He's known as 'Christmas Baba' in Hindi, 'Baba Christmas' in Urdu (both of those mean Father Christmas); 'Christmas Thaathaa' in Tamil and 'Christmas Thatha' in Telugu (both of those mean Christmas old man); and 'Natal Bua' (Christmas Elder Man) in Marathi. In Kerla Were state, he's known as 'Christmas Papa'.

Christmas Around the World