Christmas is around the corner! In a joy-filled season, our Christian friends in India embrace their traditions—some that may sound familiar, and others culturally unique.
While Indian cities have become westernized with festivities that include cake, illuminated churches, and midnight Christmas Eve services, rural villages have other customs.
Churches are dressed with a star, handmade from bamboo and with a light inside. Women wear new, colorful dresses, and people decorate a tree, often adorned with balloons and topped with a cross or light. While married couples are considered to be part of the husband’s side of the family, couples return to the wife’s family for Christmas.
Rural families gather in an orchard for a picnic, a Christmas message, and singing. Full feasts are enjoyed, featuring some foods you may find at your own Christmas dinner and others less likely; these families may enjoy goat meat, chicken, or a special meat and rice dish called “biryani.”
This season is also an opportunity for Indian Christians to reach out to their friends and neighbors who do not know Christ! People of other beliefs are drawn in to watch Christmas pageants held in churches, where children dress up as characters from the story of Jesus’ birth.
One of our partners in India shares that, each week, he and his family meet with a prayer group to pray over their neighbors. One year, they were inspired to bring Christmas treats to each neighbor. The next Christmas, the family went caroling in the area. The third year, they asked each neighbor if they would like prayer—and one woman who accepted their offer later shared that she could see positive things happening in her life as a result! Last year, the family shared “Why Christmas?” booklets with each home they visited, and they are excited to see what’s in store this year.
Whatever a family’s traditions may be, we praise God that Christian leaders and new believers will celebrate Christmas in India this year!