Christmas in India

It could still happen here

Celebrating Christmas in India is interesting for the obvious reason that it is a predominantly Hindu country. Christians make up only about 1 percent of the population, and though we do our best to conduct the festival in traditional consumeristic style, outside of Mumbai and Goa where the Catholic influence is strong, Christmas is just another day. While one might then conclude that this should make it possible to concentrate on the true meaning of the feast, for me, the reverse is true.
With no pretty lights adorning the shopping districts, no wreath on any door but ours, no carols on the radio (there is no radio), I feel duty bound to create a Christmas spirit single handedly. With hardly a thought for the Word made flesh, I bake, decorate, and shop as if keeping the Grinch at bay is my sole responsibility. I start playing Christmas cassettes by mid-November and the tree stays up till the end of January. It’s not easy.

But India has a way of sneaking past the tinsel, the garlands, and the special Spode coffee mugs and insisting on being recognized. It is the only place I have ever lived where the Christmas story makes sense. I mean literally. And not just the Christmas story. The whole Bible could be happening right here in our town. Outside the shop where I buy groceries there are people who work all day separating the wheat from the chaff. In the main bazaar, there is a labor market where men come...

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.