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Jai Ho Ho Ho!

jai ho ho ho

No one goes to India just for Christmas. Germany maybe, for the gingerbread houses or Canada for the cosy winter days, snowy window ledges and warm cups of milk chocolate. But India loves a festival and Christmas here is as spirited as anywhere else. The open roadside markets with handmade prayer offerings waving in the breeze hang alongside gilded Santa costumes and stringy tinsel. And why wouldn’t India embrace the traditions of Christmas. After all, it’s a culture that lives through family and loves through food.

It’s Diwali that’s always been the heart of India’s festive season, but with stacks of plastic Santa masks weaving for sale through the traffic, Christmas is not far behind. December is also wedding season in India so the roads, markets and houses are full. For us, this Christmas ushered in family visiting from overseas and a houseful of happiness. As a season, it’s as jolly and full of spirit as Christmas anywhere, with elf caps and foam snowflakes sold by the dozen at traffic lights across the city. 

On the streets though, Christmas looks a little out of place. Standing next to toy bikes, pet pigeons and paratha stalls, the assemble of all things Christmas makes quite a spectacle. Naked sadhus and meandering cows, not quite so much. It’s not that there’s not a vast Christian or expat community living in Delhi, just that you’d be forgiven for thinking that when the British left they’d have taken Christmas with them. On the contrary, there are thin Santas roaming malls everywhere. 

In a country where such diversity is everywhere, people celebrate everything. Christmas Eve, we were on the sightseeing trail, visiting Hindu temples, following their stories of how Ganesha came to have the head of a small elephant and wandering through the ruins of tombs from the Mughal Empire. By morning the stash of presents beneath the well-trimmed tree was like a miracle on 34th street. We didn’t know whether to lay out milk and cookies for the reindeers or the roadside cows. It’s as irreverent, beguiling and heartfelt as only India can be!


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