Christmas, the birthday of Lord Jesus, is celebrated on December 25 every year. Although Christians make up less than 5% of India's population, Christmas is a significant religious occasion in India. You'll be able to find traditional Christmas cheer in many parts of the country.
How is Christmas Celebrated?
Food, glorious food. Christmas in India is definitely all about eating! International luxury hotels serve up a vast Christmas buffets with all the favorites: roast meat (including turkey), roast vegetables, and deserts to die for.
Most hotels in India will hold a special Christmas dinner of some description but it may have more of an Indian flavor to it.
It's also possible to attend Midnight Mass at churches in Christian dominated areas of India.
Where is Best to Celebrate Christmas?
Goa, with its large Christian population, is one of the best places to have a traditional Christmas in India -- Indian style! Its many beautiful old Portuguese style churches overflow with people and Christmas cheer. Christmas carols are sung and many of the churches hold Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Christmas decorations adorn houses, streets, and market places.
Kolkata is also renowned for its Christmas celebrations. Park Street is beautifully illuminated with strings of lights and other decorations. Flury's bakes sumptuous Christmas cakes and their special Christmas menu offers a variety of Christmas treats. The fortnight-long Kolkata Christmas Festival, organized by West Bengal Tourism, will take place from December 16 to January 2.
This festival is into its sixth year this year, and has grown considerably each year. It will dominate Park Street with food and culture stalls, Christmas carols, and choirs. The highlight will be a Christmas parade on Park Street, from 3 p.m. on December 18. Head to the magnificent Saint Paul's Cathedral, with its Gothic Revival architecture, for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
This important historic church is located at the southern end of the Maidan, near Victoria Memorial, and was opened in 1847. It will also be illuminated for the occasion and have a festive feel.
For a memorable community Christmas celebration in Kolkata, don't miss visiting Bow Barracks (just off Central Avenue) where most of the city's Anglo Indians live. Special Christmas events take place from December 23 until New Year's Eve. Everyone is welcome. Calcutta Photo Tours runs a fascinating walking tour through this area.
Mumbai is another popular place to have a traditional Christmas. The western suburb of Bandra is predominantly Catholic, but you'll also find churches all over the city. These 8 Popular Mumbai Churches with Midnight Mass are the most well known ones. Bandra's Hill Road also wears a festive look full of Christmas decorations, and bakeries overflow with Christmas goodies.
In Delhi, the most popular Midnight Mass takes place at Sacred Heart Cathedral at Connaught Place. The whole Connaught Place area buzzes during Christmas, as well as the week leading up to it. There are Christmas decorations and lights, food stalls, and other street vendors.
In addition, Christmas is widely celebrated in India's remote north east region (which has a surprisingly substantial Christian population) and Kerala, as well as other south Indian cities such as Bangalore and Chennai.
In Kerala, Christmas coincides with the Cochin Carnival. A huge street parade is held.
Where NOT to Celebrate Christmas in India
Feeling like the Christmas Grinch and don't want to celebrate Christmas? Minimal Christmas festivities take place in central and north India, as there are very few Christians there.
Photos of Christmas in India
To get an idea of how Christmas in India is celebrated all across the country, take a look at this Christmas in India Photo Gallery.