After the year we all have had, Christmas is the respite everyone is looking forward to. While London, New York City and the Vatican are definitely the ones to beat when it comes to Christmas destinations, travelling there might not be possible for everyone in the present circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get to partake in the Yuletide festivities.
There are plenty of places in India which come alive with the holiday spirit, each with a touch of the local culture, guaranteeing an undeniably memorable experience. As domestic travel is largely free and open for all now, go ahead and be merry in the most festive places around the country.
Party at the beaches
The Goan beaches are crowd magnets all around the year, but come Christmas, the decorated shacks, the carols playing in the distance and the cool December breeze make them even more unmissable.
Travellers visiting Goa won’t want to miss its collection of hip beaches including Anjuna, Vagator, Arambol, Baga and Calangute. If you happen to befriend a local, try to get a taste of Bebinca – the local, homemade delicacy, and don’t forget to adhere to social distancing guidelines!
Attend the midnight mass
Owing to its profound Portuguese heritage, the state has some of the most iconic churches in India. Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Se Cathedral are some of the famous churches. Midnight Mass is typically delivered in English, Konkani as well as Portuguese, giving the whole place a hallowed vibe.
Enjoy the cultural shows
Having a high proportion of Christian population, Arunachal Pradesh celebrates the festival with proper gusto. The Christian Revival Central Church and the Baptist Church in the capital city are some of the cathedrals the locals flock to. The gaiety here is set apart by the cultural programs held, depicting the local culture. School kids participate in singing, dances, music and plays, while their parents and onlookers alike cheer in jubilation.
Souvenir-hunt in Police Bazaar
The most famous market in the city, Police Bazar is one of the most lively places to be in at Christmas, with the holiday zeal almost palpable in the air. The streets are bustling with tourists haggling with hawkers selling Christmas ornaments, handmade trinkets, first copy branded handbags, traditional winterwear and everything in between. Feast your senses on the Presbyterian Church this time of the year, when the building is covered in twinkling lights, and the carols played on its loudspeakers fill the air.
Dine at the themed restaurant
Famous for its luscious local and international cuisines as well as an array of desserts and confections, this restaurant definitely ramps up the charm of a ‘Dhaba’. At Christmas time, it is adorned with tinsel, streamers, bells, wreaths and candles, complete with a Santa and a mini wishing well too. Hopefully, the dine-in service resumes by Christmas.
Admire the architecture of Churches and attend Mass in Tamil
Heavily influenced by the town’s French colonial history, the churches in Puducherry have exquisite architecture, ranging from Gothic-style and glass panels to statues and curved archways. Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus, Church of Our Lady of Angels, Church of Lady of Lourdes and Church of Our Lady of Good Health are some examples. The Masses are mostly presented in Tamil and Telugu. Still, even if you aren’t familiar with the languages, the aura of the place will surely leave you with a certain sense of serenity.
Shop for ornaments and decorations on Mission Street
The March de Noel gathers all the sellers of handmade, artisanal goods, including fashion accessories, jewellery, toys, eco-friendly items, beauty products, painting and handicrafts, thus offering the shoppers plenty of merchandise to choose from. The southern end of the street houses beautifully embellished trees, cribs and lifelike Santas.
Savour a delectable Christmas feast
Thanks to its rich European heritage and a flair for gastronomy, Puducherry is one the best places to relish a sumptuous Christmas spread of turkey, cranberries and roast vegetables. Though most of the cafes and eateries have buffets and parties with delicious food and drinks, Feast, Don Giovanni’s and Les Alizés are the restaurants the locals swear by. Even though you might not be able to dine-in amidst the COVID pandemic, delivery and takeaway are available.
Visit Fort Kochi
Being a truly cosmopolitan city, Kochi celebrates the festival with zeal. Walk down the vibrantly decorated promenade at Fort Kochi to see the Santa Cruz Basilica and St Francis Church. The Kochi Carnival is a grand affair, highlighted by an elephants’ procession and cultural performances.
The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the most prominent contemporary art festival in Asia, is another not-to-be-missed event at Christmas time. This year, though, the celebration may take a new form as per the COVID-19 guidelines by the government.
If you’re planning on spending your Christmas in Kochi, please familiarize yourself with the city’s quarantine rules and regulations.
Indulge your sugar cravings
Having one of the most diverse food scenes in the country, Mumbai is a wonderland for sweet tooths, offering everything from family-run, hole-in-the-wall joints to chic patisseries. Kayani & Co., Hearsch Bakery, Theobroma, The Rolling Pin, Le 15 Patisserie, Sassy Spoon and Chantilly Cafe are amongst the best ones. Around Christmas, there are a plethora of hampers and confectionary baskets to buy from, with most shops home-delivering Christmas-themed seasonal goodies.
Explore the Gaothans
Away from the din and chaos of the central city, these tranquil neighbourhoods stay true to their Portuguese roots. The brightly lit houses, tinseled streets, decorated fir trees and dabs of cotton imitating snow, make them the perfect places to stroll around in Christmas. The aroma of freshly baked cakes drifting from the homes is just the cherry on top.
Revel in a secular Christmas
Visit the Mahim Fair, which is celebrated in the loving memory of Hazrat Makhdum Ali Mahimi, a Sufi saint. Experience Christmas in a truly unique way through the Qawwalis, Sufi music. A few food stalls, gaming counters and adventure sports are also organised for entertainment.
To ensure a hassle-free Mumbai trip, find more details on the city’s quarantine rules and regulations.
Experience a White Christmas
If snuggling by the fireplace sipping Brandy, looking at a thick blanket of snow outside the window, is your idea of an ideal Christmas, then Manali has got you covered. Juvenile tourists throng in the Solang valley for its winter sports, like skiing, snowboarding, zorbing and paragliding. Families can cozy up around bonfires, as Himachal’s traditional music is played in the background by the dazzling resorts and hotels.
Go on an artisanal goods’ shopping spree
The capital of the country is also its shopping centre, with merchants setting up shop from all over India. During the holiday, the German Christmas Fair, the Oz Haat Mela and Swiss-German Christkindl Market display some of the most refined Indian traditional artworks, handicrafts, textiles, jewellery and accessories and designer couture as well. The American Welcome Association’s Holiday Mela also houses sing-alongs, puppet shows and dramas.
Participate in the carnival
The Kolkata Christmas Festival is one of the largest carnival of its kind in the country. The entire stretch from Mullick Bazar to St Paul’s Cathedral is festooned, and Park Street is turned into a walk-only zone to accommodate all the holiday-spirited mobs. An elaborate Christmas Parade is also a part of the festivities, with nearly 500 schoolgoing kids participating. Usually, notable musicians, singers and bands give live performances, making the atmosphere visibly electrifying, but this year, that might change. Fingers crossed, the pandemic doesn’t rain on the parade (pun intended).
Boat Cruise on River Hooghly
One of the best views of this metropolis is served by a sunset sail along the Hooghly river. While the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation offers the more affordable options, you can also go for the luxury cruises like Vivada, or, for the ultimate opulence, spring for a privately chartered boat!
Domestic and international travellers alike would do well to learn more of Kolkata’s quarantine measures prior to their arrival in the city.