New Delhi: Every year, Christmas is celebrated on December 25 to commemorate the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ. This auspicious occasion is a prime festival of Christian community and hence, is celebrated zestfully around the world. Christmas conveys his message of love, tolerance and brotherhood. Though, it is a religious festival of Christians, it has a special significance in everyone’s life. In India, Christmas is widely celebrated by the people of all religions and communities. December 25 or Christmas Day is a public Holiday in India.
Like any other religious festival, the celebration of Christmas begins month before the day of festival. During Christmas week, markets and shopping places are embellished with different types of Christmas gifts and Christmas items. People prepare themselves for the festival by decorating their houses. Cakes, Candles, Christmas Carol and most importantly, Christmas tree are the attractions. Churches and other public places are decorated elegantly to celebrate the festival with great zeal. On the day of festival, people perform prayers at the Church and wish everyone with open heart and sacred soul. Also, various cultural programmes are organized across the nation to make this auspicious day memorable for everyone. Santa distributes gifts to the children and listens to their demands with a smile.
The festival of Christmas reflects the cultural unity of India as on this auspicious occasion, the whole nation comes together and celebrates the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ. This cultural unity sets an excellent example of brotherhood and humanism. British and European invaders brought Christianity into India and now it has become an integral part of the country. The doctrines and philosophy of Christianity has attracted people of many sections and hence, India has a large population of Christian community at present.
Christmas in India
Christian community in India celebrate Christmas with pomp, gaiety and devotion. Celebrations of Christmas festival begin on the eve of Christmas on 24th of December and continue till New Year’s Day. Christians across the country mark the birth of Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day by participating in special masses organized in churches. Celebrations of Christmas are marked by carols, cakes, candles and decoration of Christmas Tree. In several parts of India, especially in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, Christmas Festival has assumed secular overtones and is joyfully celebrated by people of all religions and communities. Christmas Day called ‘Bada Din’ (Big Day) in Hindi is a national holiday in India and people from all religions join their Christian friends to make the most of the joyous celebrations.
Christmas Euphoria in India
Euphoria for Christmas in India is largely based on the American media depiction. Days before the festival markets take a colorful look as they are decorated with traditional Christmas trees, stars, images of Santa, balloons and festoons. Gift marketers too create hype for Christmas by launching a rigorous advertising campaign through newspapers, radio and television.
On the occasion of Christmas, people in India decorate banana or mango tress instead of traditional pine tree and also light up their homes through small clay lamps or candles, just as Hindus do during the celebration of Diwali. Churches across India are decorated with poinsettia flowers for the midnight mass. As a part of celebration, people exchange gifts on this auspicious day and donate of money to poor people so as to bring happiness in their lives. South India has large population of Christians and hence, it witnesses wide celebration of Christmas. The most visited place during Christmas in India is Goa, where people from across the world come to celebrate Christmas. In Goa, all hotels are jampacked during Christmas period and one must plan well in advance if planning a stay in one of the Goa hotels. Lavish party and ceremonial programmes are organized by the local community to attract tourists.
The early Christians who were the hunted feet in the Roman Empire could not celebrate the birth of Jesus and under compulsion had to practice their religion in secret because Christianity in Rome had grown up in blood and tears. To publicly profess their religion meant grave risks to life and many a times resulted in death punishments. As such events connected with the life of Christ were commemorated by fasts, prayers and rites but not by public celebrations.
But after the conversion of Emperor Constantine to the Christian religion in 4th century A.D. that creed, professed by a few secret groups of enthusiastic believers was transformed into the religion of vast masses of humanity in Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. With this creed thus firmly established, the need for a popular festival to annually celebrate the birth of Christ was felt. But different groups had been celebrating Jesus’s birth on different dates like 6th January, 19th April, 20th May, 17th November, 25th December. By the 5th century A.D. 25th December got accepted as the most suitable date in the Western World and gradually the Eastern Churches fell in line with the west and did away with non-Christian religious rites and old traditions and introduced Christian rites and legends.
In India all the Christians do not recognise this date. The Syrian Christians who belong to Kerala do not celebrate on 25th December. Those who belong to Kerala celebrated it on 7th January with procession of elephants and musicians. Those procession were almost like Hindu Temple festivals. It was believed that those processions spiritually elevated the places through which they passed and also prevented epidemics. The music, fireworks and illuminations turned cold, dark winter nights into bright, dazzling days. Gaily decorated crosses of gold or silver were the main sacred symbols that were taken out in processions but with arrival of the Portuguese on the scene, images of saints were added to the procession. Those age-old pageants are now being replaced in Syrian churches by community prayers and services, aiming at spiritual uplift of the congregation. Yet most of the Syrian Catholic Churches even to-day take out small processions.
The Portuguese who established their supremacy in the coastal regions of India during 16th century A.D. were ardent supporters of Christianity. So the Christian religion spread widely in their dominion. Christians observe certain days like the Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter to commemorate certain events in the last 8 days of Christ’s life- Crucifixion and his Resurrection. From Goa, the capital of the Eastern Empire of the Portuguese, missions were sent to several places in the country even to the Mogul court, but those missions did not achieve any spectacular success. It was only during the British period that the Christian religion spread all over the country.
Though the country has only 2.3% population of Christians, it celebrates the auspicious occasion of Christmas with passion and pomp. The Unity in diversity of India can be seen during the celebration of Christmas. Bright light, great food and lavish parties are synonymous to Christmas celebration in India. Marketers also enjoy the festive season of Christmas as a large no of people go out for shopping during Christmas. Christians all over the world celebrate the birth or Nativity of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, on 25th of December every year. This is the most important and the gayest festival of the Christians. Other communities in India also look upon it as a festival of goodwill and greetings. During the British period it was celebrated on an All-India basis and the ten days from the Christmas Eve i.e the evening of 24th December till after the New year were declared as public holidays. Children and youngsters looked forward to Christmas holidays when they enjoyed themselves to their heart’s content. It was also during the British period that the Christian missions penetrated to the interior of India even to the tribal regions, resulting in the number of people who were converted to Christian faith. This resulted in the Christians becoming the third most important community in India.
After India achieved independence from the sovereignty of the British, this festival lost much of its official importance; yet the tradition of celebrating it that was left behind by the British continues even to this day specially in metropolitan cities of Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay and Madras where Christians as well as non-Christians celebrate it on quite a grand scale.
Christmas is the most important festival of Christians and is widely celebrated across the world by the followers of Christianity with great pomp and gusto. On this sacred occasion, people commemorate the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ and spread the message of humanity and love everywhere.
Christmas brings love and happiness into the family. This is the occasion, when friends and family members gather at one place and celebrate the bond of togetherness with love. Being the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ, this festival has a great significance in Christianity. On the day of Christmas, prayers are offered to the almighty at the Church in a traditional manner.
Christmas is the time to be jolly and spread festival cheer among one and all. On this festive occasion, what could be a better way to let your near and dear ones know what they mean to you than wishing Merry Christmas through wonderful Christmas gifts. For many, this may turn into an uphill shopping struggle.
Food plays an important part in any celebration. The pattern of food depends on the mode of celebration. During Christmas celebration, cakes and cookies have crucial role to create the right ambience for the occasion. The event of Christmas is very special occasion for all of us, especially for children.
History of Christmas
Christmas is the celebration to mark the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. People around the world irrespective of their religion celebrate this event with great enthusiasm. In many countries across the world, this day is considered as a civil holiday. In United States, this day is a federal holiday
Christmas Customs & Traditions
The customs and traditions associated with a particular festival reflect historical connection and human emotion attached with it. Christmas festival is celebrated on December 25 all over the world. Different countries celebrate this ceremony through different customs.
National, state and local government offices, post offices and banks are closed on Christmas Day. Christian stores, businesses and other organizations may be closed or have reduced opening hours. Those wishing to use public transport on the day may need to contact the local transport authorities to check on timetables.
Many Christians remember Jesus Christ’s birth when they celebrate Christmas Day, which is on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar. His actual birthday remains unconfirmed. Scholars think that Saint Thomas the Apostle introduced Christianity to the area that is now India around 52 CE. There are now around 24 million Christians in India. The states with the largest percentages of Christians are:
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland in north-west India. Goa on the west coast.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south. Christmas Day is widely celebrated in these states, but may be barely marked in others.
Symbols of Christmas in India include:
Small electric lights and oil burners.
Decorations made of banana or mango leaves.
Artificial pine trees or branches of native tree and bushes decorated with Christmas themed ornaments.
Nativity scenes with small clay figures.
Statues of or actors playing Santa Claus.
These are just some examples how Christmas is symbolized in India.
The festival of Christmas is celebrated for ten continuous days. The end of these Christian festivities is the New year day. The British introduced the Gregarian Calendar and throughout their rule it was the only calendar in use for official purposes. Even after they left and India became independent that calendar is being followed in India for official purposes. The first day of January is the New year day of the Gregarian Calendar.