While Diwali might be the biggest festival in India, Christmas is also a very popular festival in India, with an estimated 25 to 30 million Christians in India.
Like other places around the world, the Christmas festive season (leading up to the New Year) is also eagerly awaited in India, with most offices and schools remaining shut during the last one week of December.
The largest Indian Christian Communities are based in metro cities, Goa and the states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram (located in North East India).
Churches all over India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.
In certain parts of India, instead of traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated (or whatever tree people can find to decorate!). Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes. In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.
Goa has lots of ‘western’ customs as part of their Christmas celebrations because of its historical connections with Portugal. People like to go carol singing around their neighbors for about a week before Christmas. Christmas Trees are also very popular, so is a ‘traditional’ rich fruit Christmas Cake! Lots of local sweets are also eaten during Christmas in Goa.
Christians in cities like Mumbai use several Christmas traditions from Goa. In north-west India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their own carols the whole night through. They go to surrounding villages singing to people and telling the Christmas story.
In Kerala, traditional Catholics fast from 1st to 24th of December – until the midnight service. Every house will be decorated with a Christmas star. During the start of the Christmas season, almost all the stationary shops will be filled with new and variety Christmas stars. People make cribs in their homes and Churches.