Celebrating Christmas in Traditional and Non-Traditional Ways


Dr. Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Jan 2018 – Christmas is celebrated with devotion, fervor and gaiety all over the world on 25 December. Not only Christians but even people belonging to other faiths join their Christian friends in the celebrations. And even before this date all sorts of activities are undertaken to make this occasion lovable and unforgettable.

Like previous years, churches all over the world were lit up and devotees were seen thronging their neighborhood churches for festivities and for singing carols. The Vatican also celebrated the occasion with Pope Francis addressing a large gathering of people in the St. Peter’s Basilica. Tradition is that there is place called Rovaniemi near the Arctic Circle in Finland that is called the Santa Claus village which is considered Santa’s official hometown. There is a beautiful church lit up in this village attracting hardy Christians to come and enjoy the snow-covered scenery.

Indian churches were also decorated all over the country and the Cathedral Church of Redemption in Delhi looked especially beautiful and attracted thousands of devotees – mostly Christian but some people belonging to other faiths also.

These were the traditional means of celebration. There were other unorthodox and interesting ways of celebration in India.

The former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee who is bed ridden for a number of years, was born on 25th December. To celebrate his anniversary, the South Delhi Municipality launched an Atal Meal Scheme providing a nutritious and tasty food thali (plate) for Rupees ten only which would be about 15 US cents. The scheme is mainly meant for the poor people but anyone — rich or poor can buy this thali. The general opinion about the food served in this inexpensive thali was good, enjoyable and sufficient to quench one’s hunger.

Kashmir located in the Northern part of India is having a lot of snow and displays a white and beautiful scenery. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is predominantly Muslim with a few Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs living in the state. A 120-year old St Mary’s Church stands majestically at a height of about 8500 feet in Gulmarg which is a favorite site for tourists in summers. This year many Muslims joined their Christian devotees in celebrating the festival in this heritage church.

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is the business capital of India and home to millions of people. It enjoys moderate temperatures but gets a heavy rainfall during the monsoon period. People living in distant suburbs of the city usually take the so called local trains to reach the central parts of the city. The trains are overcrowded and uncomfortable. People have difficulty travelling by these trains but since there is no other option, they travel in the stuffy cabins. The Mumbai administration has made their travel slightly better by starting AC (air-conditioned) coaches from the Christmas Day.

Normally people even in North India shiver and try to stay indoors to escape from the cold outside. The bodies and even the minds are benumbed by the cold.  But sometimes people have original and inspiring ideas. One such brilliant idea came to the minds of policemen in Gurgaon near Delhi. The place is often called Millennial city and has thousands of business and IT centers and has become a congested place with vehicles creating chaos and confusion. The policemen had an unusual idea to prompt the drivers to follow traffic rules: they dressed themselves as Santa Claus’s in their police vans urging people to reduce the traffic chaos. One will have to wait for some time to know how successful this police idea was.

An unusual event that has nothing to do with Christmas, has occurred in the South Eastern countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. These countries enjoy comfortable winters but this year for some inexplicable reason, this region is facing a very cold season. While people can keep themselves warm by putting on woolen clothes, the animals, especially elephants do not have this option. The Save Elephant Foundation based in Thailand had a brilliant idea to help these huge beasts in this cold weather. They provided giant knitted crocheted blankets for keeping the beasts healthy and comfortable. What a warm hearted idea!

It is not that blankets are provided for the animals only. In India some organizations provide warm clothing and blankets for the large number of poor people who lack proper shelter and shiver in the cold.

Sand Sculpture of Santa Claus at a Beach in Puri, Odisha, India.

I am sure there have been other unusual events to celebrate Christmas this year. The ones I have written above give only a glimpse of the celebrations and festivities at this time of the year. Perhaps other people will join the festive mood and share their unusual experiences.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Jan 2018.

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