Come 25th December and every other person in India is celebrating the ‘Bada Din’ or the ‘Big Day’. Yes, Christmas in India is known as Bada Din (Bada means big and Din means day in Hindi). I’ll tell you why Christmas is called the big day later in this article. For now we will talk about how and why Christmas is celebrated in India. As Christmas is a festival which is not native to India but has been adopted by India, it does not depend upon the lunar calendar like most of the other festivals of India do. It is celebrated on 25th December when the whole world is celebrating this day as the birthday of Jesus Christ!
Why is Christmas Celebrated in India?
It’s true that Christianity is not the major religion of India but then also 2.3% of over 1 billion Indians follow Christianity. When over 25 million Christians reside in India, why India would not celebrate Christmas? Secondly, India is one of the finest example of unity in diversity where Hindus can easily be seen hugging their Muslim friends on Eid, Sikhs can be seen lighting candles and decorating their homes on Hindu festival of Diwali while Muslims and every other person can be seen playing the colorful Holi festival of Hindus. Why should then Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs can’t celebrate Christmas with their fellow citizens who happen to follow one of the widely followed religion of the world! India has been ruled by British people who were here for more than 100 years. They have taught Indians how to celebrate Christmas.
There’s yet another reason for which Christmas is celebrated in India which is rather commercial in nature. With the now all pervasive Internet and social media, people are aware of the joys and festive celebrations, cuisines and gifts and cards, parties and Santa Clause and every other thing related to Christmas. Indians also want to be the part of this biggest celebration of the biggest festival of the world. The big and small companies that are into business of cards, gifts and flowers and every other Christmas related material have seen a big market in this wish of people. The malls decorated the Christmas way, shops loaded with Christmas toys and decorative items, cake shops making Christmas special cakes, cookies and other delicacies, all contribute to the celebration of Christmas in many, if not all, homes of India!
How is Christmas Celebrated in India?
Those who are Christians, particularly the people from North-Eastern India, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, celebrate Christmas in traditional ways. They begin their preparations by cleaning their homes days before the big day arrives. On Christmas day, they decorate their homes, visit their friends, give and receive gifts, throw parties, send Christmas cards and wish everyone merry Christmas. For the Christians living in India, especially the Catholics, midnight mass is a special service which they attend on Christmas Eve. Churches all over India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers as well as candles for the grand Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.
Image Courtesy: Dies Irae
Basically, Christmas in India is celebrated the same way as it is celebrated world around. Local improvising of traditions do happen just like in any other country. For example, while traditional Christmas trees are decorated, sometimes banana and mango trees or any other available trees are also decorated in lack of original pine trees. Keeping in with the Indian traditions followed in other festivals, homes are sometimes decorated with even mango leaves. While big lights in the shape of stars can be seen in front of the Christian homes, you may also witness small clay lamps lighted with the help of oil (just like they do on Diwali day) decorated on the roofs of homes. These are all local impact that may be seen in the celebration of Christmas in India.
Homes in Christian localities can also be seen with a manger in front of their windows. In fact, people here may display a sense of competition while creating the nativity scene. Community celebration of Christmas is also very common all over India. Schools run by Christian missionaries organize special programmes like plays based on native stories, Christmas carols etc. where students actively participate and make the celebrations much more joyous. In some parts of India, certain tribes that follow Christian religion celebrate a week long Christmas by roaming around the neighboring villages night after night and singing carols as well as telling stories about Christmas. And the grand old man, the famous Santa Claus can be seen everywhere in every big city of India- in markets, malls, shopping areas- distributing sweets and gifts to children and making them happy by just being with them!
Special Christmas Celebration in Goa
When the discussion is about Christmas celebration in India, one cannot just exclude discussing Goa. This smallest state of India gets tourists from India and all around the world during Christmas holidays. The already beautiful and happening Goa can be seen at its cultural best during Christmas. All its beaches burst with breathtaking celebrations. People can be seen dancing and singing and flocking together to celebrate Christmas. The local Catholics in Goa participate in the traditional midnight mass services that are known as Missa de Galo or Cock Crow as they continue till early hours of the morning. There is this Carnival in Goa which precedes Lent, which is almost similar to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This can just give an idea about how exuberant is the celebration of Christmas in Goa!
Christmas in Other Parts of India
Now Goa is the tourists’ paradise always, especially so during Christmas vacation. But that doesn’t mean the rest of India doesn’t celebrate Christmas! While Christmas is celebrated all over India by Christians and of course their friends from other religion too, it is more visible in those pockets of India where considerable Christian population resides like in the North-east India, Kerala, Pondicherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman and Diu etc. These places actually get included in the top Christmas vacation destinations in India due to the unique flavor of celebrating Christmas in each of these places. In fact, some of the other places in India that do not have Christian population too celebrate Christmas in a grand manner just for the tourists who want to use their Christmas vacation to see some of the popular tourist destinations in India. If you want to know about such places, read Christmas vacation destinations in India!
Christmas Celebration in Tourist Spots of India
And here are some special mentions of such places in India where Christmas is celebrated in special ways but different than Goa that I had written earlier in this article. In fact, these are some very beautiful places of India where people from world over come to enjoy during Christmas holidays. Some of these places have a historic link with Christianity and thus celebrate Christmas according to their beliefs and traditions. Some other places, however, do not have any association with the Christian religion but still they celebrate Christmas as per the wishes of tourists who come here. To know how these cities of India, the hot tourist spots of India actually, celebrate Christmas, Go to the following pages.
- Christmas in Pondicherry
- Christmas in Jaisalmer
- Christmas in Kerala
- Christmas in Kashmir
- Christmas in Gangtok
- Christmas in Goa
Christmas- Why is it Called Bada Din in India?
Now to keep my promise made in the initiating para of this article, I must tell you why Christmas is called ‘Bada Din’ or the ‘Big Day’ in India. You just have to recall your lessons studied in school where you learnt that winter solstice happens in December. The date is 21st or 22nd December. You also learnt that winter solstice marks the beginning of shortened nights and lengthy days. Thus, Christmas day which falls on 25th December signifies the beginning of ‘bada din’ or ‘big day’ (lengthy days henceforth). However, there’s nothing official in this reason, it’s only my thinking behind why Christmas day might be named as ‘Bada Din’ in India. There may be another reasons too! For example a big day also means a great day. As the birth of Jesus can nothing lesser than a great event, his birth date which is the Christmas day, can rightly be said the ‘Bada Din’ or the ‘Great Day!’