Christmas Around the World is a 10-part series. This audio podcast is narrated by Mohit Abraham. He grew up in the United Arab Emirates and now lives in Vancouver with his wife and family.


Mohit Abraham: Christians are a small minority in India with only 2.3% of the population. But because of the many British traditions that have stayed on since independence in 1947, Christmas is still a state holiday.

Mohit Abraham

Mohit Abraham grew up in the United Arab Emirates.
Today, he lives in Vancouver.

Sincere devotees attend the church services. Often times it’s a midnight service, sort of a candle light service, which I remember from my childhood. And many of the schools that are run by the Christian missionaries, the children actively participate in special programmes. And even in non-religious schools, there is tradition of Christmas celebration.

There are many different languages and cultures in India. So, Christmas is known in a variety of different titles. In Hindi and Urdu, Happy or Merry Christmas is Bade Din ki Mubarak; in Sanskrit it is Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa; in Telugu Christhu jayanthi shubhakankshalu; in Tamil it’s Christhu Jayanthi Nalvaalthukal; and in Punjabi it’s Christmas diya vadiyia.

In India, Santa Claus is known as Father Christmas in different languages. In Hindi it’s Christmas Baba, in Telugu and Tamil Christmas Thaathaa. Traditionally, he’s been known to be the giver of presents to children. His mode of transportation is a horse and a cart. So, even though it is not widely celebrated as a religious holiday, lots of people still get into Christmas.

You can see days before the festival markets take on a colourful look as they are decorated with traditional Christmas trees, stars are a big part of Christmas decorations in India, tree toppers often times but also, just hanging around the house. They’ll be stars with bulbs in them so they are lit, multi-colored, multi-shaped, multi sizes. So, it’s a very festive look. Images of Santa or Father Christmas is often, becoming more and more popular, and balloons and other types of decorations.

Where I grew up in India, gifts were actually hardly ever exchanged. The highlight of Christmas for us as children was the fireworks that our parents would buy large bunches of firecrackers and other kinds of fun fireworks for kids to play with. And then the fact, that all the family would get together in early morning Christmas day for a sunrise service, and then have a huge breakfast slash brunch meal right afterwards. Andd the kids would play together. And then you would see groups of people going house to house caroling.

So, that was almost always the highlight of Christmas for us. And Christmas trees were always outside, you know was never cut down, was always whatever tree was closest to the house was used. And the kids would decorate it with as many things that they could find and lit up Christmas Eve.

So, that is what it was like for me growing up.

Audio captured and edited by Ed Stortro
Audio transcription by Ed Stortro
Voice over Mohit Abraham