The Christmas stars are hung, the bells jingle merrily, the trees are decorated with baubles, cakes are baked by dozens and yes, ho-ho-ing Santa Clauses to appear in their red and white costumes and white beards to give candies and token gifts to kids.
People of other nations may think that South East Asia is all about Hinduism and Islam, the reality is that followers of several other religions too live as part and parcel of the humongous populace. As we are talking of Christmas, let’s take Christianity for example; Christianity first came to India with St. Thomas in the 52 A.D. (much before Europe and certainly long before Australia). The European conquerors – Portuguese, British and French – of later centuries played their role too. India was a British colony till 1947 and a large Anglo-Indian Christian community was born during those years of occupation. Today there are 24 million Christians in India – Syrian, Catholic, Protestants and many sub divisions thereof. To cut a long story short, as a festival, Christmas may not be in the league of Holi, Deepawali and Eid, but it is a huge and prominent festival nevertheless.
Christmas (also called Bada Din i.e. the big day) is celebrated with gusto and enjoyment all over India. Churches, markets and Christian institutions are decorated with lights and streamers. Markets are full of stalls selling Christmas stars, lanterns, candles, Santa masks and gift stockings. Consumer goods companies come out with attractive Xmas offers to cash in on the holiday mood. Restaurants offer special Christmassy menus. Showrooms and malls are decked up in lights and hired Santas entertain incoming children. Of course, regions with heavy Christian population – the entire Konkan region, Mumbai, north-eastern states, Daman and Diu, Pondicherry and Kerala – have an extra euphoric air of festivity during the Noel time. The vast Anglo-Indian community has its own fusion cuisine that’s rooted in British tradition of Christmas roasts, puddings, cookies and mince pies, albeit with the Indian spiced touch. The roasts have a base of curry, puddings and cakes use Indian nuts and cookies are often rose flavored.
Interestingly enough, as most of Australian population has its roots in Britain and Ireland (remember, both India and Australia were British colonies at one time!), many Christmas traditions have actually evolved from the same roots.
Christmas is a gazetted holiday in India i.e. schools, colleges and offices are closed. Christians decorate their homes with lights and candles (some place oil filled earthen lamps like Hindus do on Deepawali festival). Most Christian families attend the midnight mass, have a feast and exchange presents. Traditional sweets and cakes are sent to neighbors as a token of celebration. In fact, many bakeries hang the sign ‘Bring your batter; we will bake your cake for you’. Of course, bakeries do roaring business selling readymade cakes as well.
In India, many leading educational institutions and hospitals are run by Christian missionaries and people from all communities participate in Christmas festivities held there. In Christian schools, carols are sung, presents are distributed and the festive atmosphere permeates to non-Christian students’ households too. You would often find a potted araucaria or juniper plant decorated in homes where children attend Christian schools. In fact, most children from upper class families hang a stocking by the bed and expect to wake up to find it filled with presents, by Santa Claus!
At Tandoori Flames, we capture the unique spirit of Christmas in India. We are now taking bookings for Christmas Parties, so whether you are in charge of organizing the office party or you are organizing a gathering of friends, visit us to see our special Christmas Packages or contact us direct to discuss your requirements.