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 Catholic-dominated areas of India.
Where is Best to Celebrate Christmas?
Goa, with its large Catholic 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.
The Fontainhas Latin Quarter in Pajim is an outstanding place to enjoy Christmas celebrations. Make It Happen is conducting a Christmas Evening Walk in Fontainhas on December 25, 2017. There will be a special Christmas feast and brass band.
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 Kolkata Christmas Festival, organized by West Bengal Tourism, is an added attraction. It dominates Park Street with food and culture stalls, Christmas carols, and choirs.
The festival usually starts in mid-December and runs for two weeks. Unfortunately, this year it's scheduled to begin late, on December 22, and end early on December 30. The highlight is a Christmas parade on Park Street on December 23. There won't be any events on December 24 or 25.
Head to Kolkata's 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 9 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.
Quaint 200 year old Matharpacady village, tucked away in the lanes of Mazagaon, is another place where Christmas is enthusiastically celebrated in Mumbai. This East Indian Catholic village is beautifully decorated for the occasion, and illuminated in the evenings. Boutique travel company No Footprints is conducting a heritage walk through Matharpacady village on December 22, 2017. It finishes with a visit to the guide's ancestral home to sample Christmas treats. The cost is 799 rupees. Advance bookings are required. A similar walk is being held by Some Place Else on Christmas Day.
Foodies must try the special Christmas feast that's being served by Bombay Canteen, one of the best Indian cuisine restaurants in Mumbai, from December 18-31, 2017. It consists of five Christmas dishes from five different regions in India.
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.
Elsewhere in India
In addition, Christmas is widely celebrated by the substantial Christian population in India's remote north east region (head to Shillong in Meghalaya, Kohima in Nagaland, or Aizwal in Mizoram) 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.