30/12/2015 8:15 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Podcast: How We Gave A Desi Twist To Christmas


"Has anyone noticed how Christmas is no longer a Christian festival in India? That fairy lights strung up for Diwali stay up till the last week of December?" - that's what Delhi-based writer Christine Pemberton asked in a 2012 article in Times Crest, Times of India's erstwhile weekend edition. Christmas, undoubtedly, is a major festival in the Indian calendar - it has been for several decades now.

But, we do more than just celebrate the festival. We've given Christmas a very desi twist, which is most apparent in the sweets that Indian Christian communities whip up this time of the year. We prepare dishes unique to our country (bebinca, karanji, kulkuls, to name a few), and we adapt western Christmas foods, giving them an typical Indian touch - moist stollen, anyone?

Food apart, we've also given Christmas its own moniker in Hindi. Sanjay Srivastava, a professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, writes in The Hindu, "[Christmas] was, in many cities of North India, referred to as bada din (big day). "Bada Din Mubarak!" was the term I was taught to use as a greeting, if I came across any Christian on December 25."

Do a little more sleuthing online and you will come across the intriguing "cake mixing ceremony", which seems to be especially popular among hotels in south India. Every December, these hotels invite guests and staff to start the process of baking the Christmas cake by emptying several bottles of brandy, wine or rum into a large pile dried fruits. Here's a 2012 account from Mysore, by the Times of India, and more recent one by The Hindu, which talks about a cake mixing ceremony that happened this year.

Christmas definitely is not just a Christian festival anymore. As Vikram Doctor puts it perfectly, "When Christians brought Christmas to India, we lost no time in making it a very Indian festival."

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