Christmas celebrates the Nativity of Jesus Christ
, founder of Christianity
. The word Christmas comes from the words "Cristes Maesse", or "Christ`s Mass." Historians claim that the first celebration of Christmas took place in Rome in 336 A.D. It was an important festival during British period all over India. After India achieved Independence from the British rule, this festival lost much of its official importance. The tradition of celebrating it as left behind by the British, continues even to this day.
Christmas Celebrations in India
Dances, carols, Christmas trees, arrival of Santa Claus, midnight mass form the main celebrations of Christmas. Night is enlivened by carols, dances and the midnight mass, and preparation of dishes for the Christmas feast. The day is spent in visiting friends and relatives, and in feasting. These are generally the customs introduced by Europeans and followed by Christians, practically all over India. Christmas is celebrated with cakes made of rice flour, plantains and a feast. Christmas cards are not sent. The only important item of good wishes is the sending of homemade cakes to houses in morning. Some sections of Syrians forbid meat eating during Advent (from 1st December till Christmas Eve). Further, all Syrian Christians do not at present celebrate Christmas on the 25th day of December. Some of the Nestorians, who are quite numerous in central Kerala
, celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January and this takes us to the origin of the Christmas festival and the date of Jesus` Nativity.
People decorate their houses; erect Christmas trees; make cribs with figures of baby Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, the three kings who come to visit the baby and shepherd boys and their herds grazing around depicting the scenes of Jesus` Birth in the Bible. They decorate the Christmas tree, hang stars, gifts and illuminate them. Even the markets, homes and churches take on a festive air. There is lot of activity all around. Elaborately decorated Christmas trees, delicious cakes and Santa Claus moving in the streets distributing goodies to the children are the main attractions of the festival. Christmas cards expressing greetings of "Merry Christmas", are exchanged during Christmas. The custom of sending cards was established in 1870 in England.
, a former colony of Portugal, incorporates a culture, which is perfect blend of Portuguese and Indian style. People here observe all the festivals of all religions equally. Christmas is one such festival, which the people of Goa celebrate with equal vigour. The Christians and non-Christians in Goa observe this day with great honour towards Jesus Christ. The celebrations last for 3 days and tourists also participate in this festival.
In Northwest India
, the tribal Christians of the Bhil tribe
, an aboriginal people, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their equivalent of carols the whole night through.
Christians in India decorate banana or mango trees instead of traditional pine tree. They also light small oil-burning lamps as Christmas decorations and fill their churches with red roses and other Indian Flowers
. As a part of their celebration, they give the gifts of various types to their family members and token of money to poor people as charity. People decorate their houses and churches with poinsettia flowers for the midnight mass. In South India, the Christians put small clay lamps on the rooftops and walls of their houses at Christmas, just as the Hindus do during their festival called Diwali
. In Goa, all hotels are jam-packed during Christmas period. The Indian regional tradition is clearly visible during Christmas. And this is visible in their decoration as many Indian Christians decorate their houses with mango leaves. Churches often have an Evening Service on Christmas and are fabulously decorated with poinsettias and candles. Carolling processions on streets and thoroughfares can also be seen.
Commercialisation is however bringing more secular Christmas celebration to the public sphere. Days before the festival, markets have a colourful look as they are decorated with traditional Christmas trees, stars, images of Santa Claus, balloons and festoons.