In India, festivals are always celebrated with lights and colours, and Christmas is no exception. Unlike some occasions like Thanksgiving and Halloween, which India learned to celebrate more recently, the history of Christmas Time in India is an ancient tradition.
Mango Christmas Tree and Indian Santa Claus:
Like any other major holiday in India, Christmas is also celebrated with multitudes of festivities. Santa Claus, also known as “Christmas Baba, Christmas Tatha, Natal Bua, or Christmas Papa,” brings presents to the children. Churches are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles. Similarly, people decorate their homes with mango leaves, star-shaped lanterns, and manger scenes. They also decorate mango and banana trees instead of traditional Christmas trees to set the festive mood. In Goa, which follows many Western customs because of its historical connections with Portugal, people like to go carolling around their neighbourhoods. They also hang up giant star-shaped paper lanterns between their houses so that the stars float above as people walk down the streets. Usually, the Christmas festivities begin the night before the 25th as families attend Midnight Mass together and then follow this with a massive feast.
Christmas Fruitcake and Consuadas:
At the feast, popular Christmas entrees include roast turkey or chicken. Moreover, a variety of Gujiya (Either savoury or sweet deep-fried dumplings), a ‘Holi’ dish, are also made for Christmas. There are two kinds –meat gujiya and sweet gujiya.
The Assortment is Spectacular
Christmas in India also brings a variety of desserts as well. Christmas sweets — mainly originating from Goa and adapted in the rest of the country — are traditionally called “kuswar.” They include neureos (small pastries stuffed with dry fruit and coconut and fried) and dodol (toffee with coconut and cashew in it). There is also kidiyo (deep-fried curly dough balls dusted in powdered sugar and sweet dumplings called newrio (stuffed with palm sugar, sweet grated coconut, and sesame seeds). These delicious delicacies are often part of a ‘consuada’–a Portuguese word for Christmas feast–where people make sweets before Christmas and share them with their family, friends, and neighbours.
And There's More...
Desserts also range from rose cookies to deeply delicious multi-layered Christmas fruitcakes. These traditional dense Christmas fruitcakes are an elaborate, labour-intensive process made with coconut milk and flour. Savoury banana chips, crisp chaklis (a round, deep-fried savoury made with lentils), and cardamom and cashew macaroons round up a versatile collection of Christmas goodies.
Many American Indians in Barrie celebrate the holiday differently than in India. However, regardless of where you are, Christmas is a time for family, friends, and food. Just saying that – if you’re not up to all the baking and work in the kitchen, drop into Tandoori Kingdom on Blake Street. The choices are spectacular…and, as all the staff there say, “one cannot ask for anything more than to be surrounded by tradition, love, and happiness during this most joyous of seasons” – “Merry Christmas.”
Written By: Jane Laker
Photo Credit: Stephen Elliott
We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading Christmas in India. Let us know your favourite Indian food and dessert treat in the comment.