Neighbourhoods filled with melodious sounds of carol singing, the sweet aroma of cakes and cookies emanating from bakeries, decked up churches and markets filled with Christmas trees, Santa figurines and poinsettia flowers are just some things that announce, Christmas is here.
One of the most awaited and loved winter festivals, Christmas brings along with it a lot of cheer and hope and also encourages us to experience the joy of giving. While there are many ways to soak in the Yuletide spirit in India, why not plan a Christmas outing this year to add to the fun? There are many places that celebrate Christmas with a lot of merriment and splendour, but we urge you to visit Goa to experience its Portuguese-influenced Christmas or tag along with locals in Puducherry and be part of their French-style celebrations or shop to your heart’s content at Kolkata’s well-stocked Christmas markets, to experience a different sort of Christmas.
Portugese Style, Goa
No place in India is as magical on Christmas as Goa. With Roman Catholics comprising a major chunk of the Goa population, add to it the Portuguese legacy, this beach state celebrates Christmas in the most traditional way.
Keeping up with the Portuguese style tradition, Goans decorate their homes with nativity scenes. The entire city looks beautiful decked up with poinsettia flowers and lights. Attending a midnight mass at one of the stunningly decorated historical churches or by visiting one of Goa’s heritage cathedrals is a good idea. Some famous Churches are Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
Families and friends mainly bond over Christmas lunches and dinners, which are coupled with live music. Goan homes and bakeries dish out sweets such as dodol (coconut and cashew squares), neureos (stuffed dry fruit and coconut balls), kol-kols and fruit cake. To get a taste of the traditional Christmas meal, try the traditional Goan curry, sorpatel (meat in spicy sauce), chicken cafreal (green spice paste) and bebinca (seven layered pudding), the quintessential Goan desert. A Portuguese special dish called Bacalhau da Consoada is traditionally prepared on Christmas eve.
Goa is also known for its happening party scene at this time of the year. Beaches like Anjuna, Mapusa and Candolim are best options. Popular dance and music festivals like Sunburn and Supersonic also take place here at the end of december.
French Inspired, Puducherry
The moment you arrive in Puducherry on a Christmas eve, your notion of ‘Goa being the only best place to celebrate Christmas’ falls apart. Christmas in this former French colony, made up of a majority of Christian population, is as grand and authentic. A lot of French natives visit the city during the festival. One is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which place to head to for the midnight Christmas mass with the city being home to lovely churches that have eye-catching Roman and Gothic architecture and stunning Christmas decorations. This is an activity we suggest one must do for the unique experience it provides. The sight of the French singing carols along with Indians is one to remember! Locals celebrate Christmas following all the traditions and ample time is spent in elaborate decorations of the Christmas tree.
The next thing to experience in the city is its fabulous dinners during Christmas. Many restaurants offer the traditional turkey dinner during the time.
The beauty of Puducherry touches your core and apart from enjoying the festivities, you can simply put up your feet and relax at one of the many wonderful beaches. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is another place that is worth a visit and attracts followers from all over the world.
The city of Kolkata celebrates Christmas with a lot of excitement. During the festival, the weather is just perfect, neither hot nor cold, and this plays a role in setting the mood right for the celebrations.
The famous Park Street, usually where all the action takes place, is decked up in Christmas colours with murals showcasing Christmas fables days before the actual festival. There is a two-hour long Christmas Parade besides food stalls set up by members of different communities residing in the city and live music performances. Park Street is closed for traffic so that revellers can take to the streets.
If you wish to shop for Christmas trees and Santa Claus figurines of any size, New Market is the place. Street vendors here are game for bargaining and if you possess the skills for it, you can try your luck. The various bakeries lined on the outskirts of the market that make some wonderfully delicious cakes, struggle to keep up with the overflowing number of fruit cake orders they receive during Christmas.
By Christmas eve the whole of Kolkatta is out there on the streets to celebrate. While some come to enjoy the Christmas special meals that restaurants offer, some are just there to enjoy the Yuletide spirit wearing Santa caps.
Written By: Pooja Kulkarni