By Kritika Mittal.
Christmas as we know it celebrates the birth of Christ, the harbinger of peace and joy. A festival of the Christians mainly, only about 2.3% of India’s population practice Christianity which is still a whooping 24 million. Christmas celebrations are the most extravagant in the concentrated pockets inhabited by the Christians. Namely; Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland in the north east, Goa , Kerala and Mumbai on the west coast, and Andaman & Nicobar islands.
All this might be enough to celebrate Christmas for few but there’s more to the festival. For a truly enlightening experience, one can visit Goa. Since a majority of population practices Christianity, Christmas is celebrated with great fervour. The ancient Portuguese churches have their own magnificence. Located in old Goa, The Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Church of Saint Cajetao among others have special masses and carol sessions. Hundreds of people flank them. The whole city is enveloped with the festive mood. Houses and markets are adorned with decorations. Cribs and mangers are made. Special authentic dinners and lunches are prepared. It simply cheers up the soul and calms the mind. A similar environment can be seen in parts of Mumbai too. Holy Name Cathedral, Mount Mary’s Basilica, Saint Peter’s church etc are few famous churches. The Bandra Hill road notably wears a festive look.
If you happen to visit the north east, Christmas in Mizoram is one of the biggest affairs there. It is celebrated over 3 days: from 24th to 26th. The first day i.e the 24th kickstarts the festive mood and various tribes and sub-tribes engage in their own activities. The 25th which is the main day, people from far and near gather at the main church of a section and exchange greetings. The last day is for indulging in an exquisite feast. Many communities participate. Tribals indulge in singing folk songs and telling the Christmas Story from place to place. Manipur has festivities spread mostly over 2 days. Reading of Gospels, special prayers, feasts, etc mark the Christmas season.
Kerala too marks Christmas as a major festival. Traditional Catholics indulge in fasts until the Christmas Day. Churches are adorned with flowers and candles for the midnight mass. Every household has a lit up star put up as well.
But the most crucial aspect is to embrace the season in its true sense. Consumerism and display of wealth in form of presents and parties is not the way to be. A gradual drift has been observed in the previous years. The message given by the festival should be adopted in some way or the other. May it be helping the less fortunate brethren, returning home to spend time with the family or visiting your grandparents to make them smile. MERRY CHRISTMAS.