‘Tis the season! Will you be decking the halls with boughs of holly or packing your bags for a trip? If it’s the latter, you’ll be in for a treat because Christmas in India is a sight to behold! You’ll see people shopping for new clothes, children scurrying about collecting nativity statues, and cities decking up to welcome the festival.
In India, Christmas is a mix of cultures influenced by the British, French, and Portuguese, the reflection of which is seen in the cuisines, carols, and rituals. If you’ve no plans holding you back this Christmas, why not explore destinations that celebrate this festival grandly? Check out these best places to celebrate Christmas in India.
With almost 400 churches, you can imagine the enthusiasm with which Christmas must be celebrated in this coastal state. You can visit several churches to see Christmas in full swing or visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church to get the true taste of this festival. There are firework shows in the churches of Old Goa and the entire state drowns in merriment.
Beaches like Vagator and Anjuna host trance parties and techno parties that go on till morning. The active nightlife, busy streets, and colorful markets make Goa no less than a huge party every evening leading up to the new year. There’s no limit to the number of things you can do in Goa during this time, play casino on a cruise on the River Mandovi, attend the Sunburn festival 2 days after Christmas Eve, or take a bike ride through Goa after midnight!
When you’re tired after the exciting celebrations, take a stroll around Panjim, Mapusa, or Candolim to bask in some festive atmosphere. Every other lane will treat you to new smells and sights, like the essence of Bebinca and fruit cakes wafting through the air. Before you call your Christmas in Goa adieu, don’t forget to go crib hopping with your friends!
Stroll on any street in Kerala on Christmas Eve and you’ll hear ‘Gloria in Excelsis De’ or ‘Feliz Navidad’ floating through the cool December air. The way Christmas is celebrated in Kerala is influenced by the Syrian and Western Christians. Entire Kerala is lit up in fairy lights, star paper lanterns, and lamps during Christmas.
You’ll see people flocking to churches to attend midnight masses and hear the gospels. Women dress up in finest jewelry and sarees and children go about singing carols. Just like in Diwali, people light earthen lamps on their rooftops and decorate their courtyards with Kolam (a type of floor art drawn with a paste of rice flour). Since there are no Christmas trees in a tropical climate like ours, you’ll see people decorating banana or mango trees.
If you want to experience Christmas at its best in Kerala, head over to the Kochi Muziris Biennale and Cochin Carnival in the city of Kochi. Visit churches like the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica and Holy Coonan Cross Church to feel the festivities. You can even visit the beaches of Kovalam to enjoy the beach carnivals. If you want to experience a traditional local Christmas, explore how the Catholic fishermen celebrate this festival in the coastal villages of Kerala.
Also Read: Experiencing The Food In Kerala
Pondicherry is beautiful with its heritage buildings, churches, and French colonies. The beauty of the French Capital of India doubles up during Christmas. The colonies are lit up, churches are decorated, and the beaches are prepped up for the arrival of Christmas in Pondicherry. A friendly tip would be to rent a bike and cut through crowds as you explore Pondicherry on a Christmas night.
Walk along Mission Street to take in the festivities and listen to the music drifting from the little windows. The Christmas Market or the Marche de Noel is where you can try some gourmet food, window shop from boutique stores, or buy pretty jewelry. Crash in any restaurant and you’ll taste the best turkey and wine on the menu specially curated for Christmas! Most restaurants in Pondicherry also offer 5-course dinners and brunches in celebration of the festival. Prepare your appetites already!
If you hear carols from a distance, it may not always be a church. There are carol concerts held in Pondicherry every year during Christmas time. You can also see people singing ‘Silent Night’ in candlelight on beachside churches. Join in if you know any carol by heart or just sing the chorus! Also, don’t forget to visit the Our Lady of Angels Church as it’s splendid during Christmas.
Christmas in Chennai is all about food, lights, and festive sights! You’ll see the city preparing for the birth of Christ weeks in advance. The streets, markets, malls, and hotels of Chennai are lit up extravagantly. Look how we forgot to mention the beaches! Let’s start with Marina Beach. Every year during Christmas, Marina Beach witnesses a huge footfall, which is unsurprising because Marina Beach has a large shoreline. There’s so much space for beach activities and Christmas stalls that sell ethnic jewelry, artifacts, handicrafts, and food!
There’s also a deep religious significance in celebrating Christmas in Chennai. Thousands of devotees flock to the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health in Velankanni. Once the sun sets on the beaches of Chennai, the nightlife in its pubs and cafes welcomes you. You can dance your night away and devour delicious Tamilian cuisines to refuel yourself.
After an eventful Christmas night, you can gobble up a heavy brunch as hotels in Chennai often treat you to grand buffet feasts! Post that, rather than touring Chennai under the afternoon sun, we say you check out the enormous malls of Chennai. There are fun activities like dances, lucky draws, and sales to attract tourists. Before you pack your bags, try the traditional pork and chicken curries served with sannas, it’s a favorite Christmas meal here!
Head over to Manali if you want to experience a literal white Christmas. As far as the eye sees, the pine trees are covered with snow and the landscapes are bathed in pristine white blankets. During the nights, streets, cafes, and churches are lit up casting a golden illumination over the snowy pathways.
You can see hotels decorated to welcome the season, Santa Claus at the entrance of every other restaurant, and tourists dressed in reds to celebrate Christmas in this lovely hill station. Walk the chilly streets of Manali with a cup of hot chocolate and hear the carols and an occasional Himachal Kullu folk song wafting through the hills.
The extended Christmas holidays are simply perfect to experience the beautiful places in Manali like the Hadimba Temple, Solang Valley, and the banks of the Beas River. On Christmas evenings, Mall Road in Manali is packed with tourists out to see the decorated streets and to shop for goodies. If you want to spend some quaint time this Christmas Eve in Manali, simply drape a shawl around your shoulders and see the bonfire dance all night long. Surely the hotel or hostel you stay at in Manali will arrange a bonfire for their guests on Christmas night!
Ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated in Northeast India? Head over to Shillong in Meghalaya to experience it first hand. You can see people lining outside bakeries, visiting each other’s homes, and shopping in the malls. When Christmas comes knocking on this northeastern Indian city, every corner is filled with music. There are live gigs, bands performing gospel music, and people coming together to sing traditional hymns.
Walk towards the central square of Shillong and you’ll be met with bright decor, Christmas stars on every rooftop, food stalls selling hot savory cuisines, and restaurants welcoming you for a traditional Christmas dinner. If you’re confused about what to order, try the Dohneiiong (a traditional pork dish of Meghalaya), Christmas fruitcakes, and some wine to go with your meal!
The best way to experience Christmas in Shillong is to sit outside a cafe and see the city go by. You’ll see families hurrying to catch the midnight mass at the Cathedral of Mary and tourists clicking selfies under huge Christmas trees.
There’s also a lot to learn from Christmas in Shillong: locals visit orphanages, old age homes, and even jails with gifts. You’ll see youngsters buying gifts from money collected from carol singing and baking cakes for the underprivileged. You must truly consider visiting Shillong in the Christmas season to see all this yourself!
Also, Shillong has a good number of homestays if you're visiting this city on a budget. So, do check them out here.
Book your tickets in advance to see one of the largest Christmas carnivals in India, the Kolkata Christmas Festival! Where, you ask? Park Street, the entire street right from St. Xavier’s College to Jawaharlal Nehru Road is decked up in Christmas-themed lightning. Christmas on Park Street in Kolkata is so iconic that every local will suggest you visit it at least once on your trip to Kolkata in December.
Amusing and entertaining sights await you on Park Street during Christmas. You’ll see large neon Christmas signs, teenagers wearing red horns posing for selfies, and Christmas carols bursting from roadside loudspeakers. There’s much to shop and eat on this street, and you’ll never know where you lost your time. This place turns back into a pedestrian street on Christmas Eve. But your Christmas isn’t over yet!
You should check out the St. Paul’s Cathedral for its midnight mass and sight of devotees singing in candlelight. Walk by the Old Mission Church on Christmas Eve and you’ll hear the choir in full swing bouncing off the walls of this historic 18th-century church. If you’re an appreciator of architecture and design, don’t miss the St. John’s Church and the St. Thomas Church for their colonial architecture and awe-inspiring designs.
From the streets of Bandra to the narrow lanes of Byculla, Christmas is celebrated with great zest in Mumbai. You can see children going door to door singing Christmas carols, families attending masses, and youngsters rushing to the pubs before they get full. Christmas in Mumbai is a platter of different flavors.
You shouldn’t miss Saint Andrew’s Church in Bandra which overlooks the Arabian Sea and looks utterly impressive during Christmas time. While you’re in Bandra, no harm to peep into the Mount Mary’s Basilica near Taj Lands End. There’s an interesting story about how the Mother Mary idol here was brought by the Portuguese in the 16th century. You should visit Chapel Road in Bandra during day time; the old Christian houses and wall art will have you clicking many photos!
Christmas in Mumbai is also special because of all the shopping you can indulge in! Hill Road in Bandra, Colaba Causeway in Colaba, and Crawford Market in Fort will treat you to some sparkly Christmas festoons, ornaments, and lights. Before the night fades away, drop off your shopping bags and find yourself a table at one of the many clubs in Mumbai. You’ll have a December night to remember!
Just like how you should visit Pondicherry for its French colonies, you should visit Diu for its Portuguese-style structures. 650 km away from the coastal town of Diu lies the city of twin forts: Daman. Spending a Christmas in Daman and Diu is a unique experience because of the cultural shows, millions of vibrant lanterns, and the Corridinho Portuguese dance forms. This Christmas is different because of the Portuguese flavor added to it.
If you’re looking to spend a spiritual time this Christmas, head to the famous churches of Daman like the Church of Bom Jesus, Church of Our Lady of Angustias, and Church of Our Lady of Remedies. If you’re in the mood for a party, then you’re at the right place as Diu is known for its active nightlife, great food, and cheap liquor. If you’re looking for a good place to celebrate Christmas and New Year near Gujarat, Diu and Daman should be on your list.
It offers the same sights and feel as Goa and is less crowded. You’ll love this place for its small colorful markets, clean streets, and pristine beaches. Daman and Diu are quite underrated and we’re sure you’ll return to spend a weekend here after your Christmas trip!
Bangalore opens you to ancient churches, hipster cafes, neon-lit market streets, and exciting breweries. There’s so much to see and so many things to catch in Bangalore that even the traffic cannot deter your plans! Let’s start with the churches, the famous ones are St. Patrick’s Church on Brigade Road and The All Saints Church on Hosur. The British and French influence on their structures is interesting to see, more so during Christmas!
Going on a food tour on Christmas in Bangalore is not a bad idea with the number of eateries, food stalls, and restaurants in the Garden City. Walk around MG Road and go bonkers over the street food here. If you crave the Christmas Plum Cake, pay a visit to Koshy’s or Thomas Bakery. Bangaloreans are fans of mutton samosas and lemon tarts found at the All Saints Bakery. Whether you’re a local or visiting as a tourist, don’t miss this one!
Christmas shopping in Bangalore is a fun experience because of the variety of Christmas merchandise, decor items, and tree ornaments in its markets. The malls of Bangalore too are brimming with activity during Christmas. There are carnival dances, juggling acts, fireworks, and carol singing events taking place throughout Christmas. Also, the malls in Bangalore erect some of the tallest Christmas trees in the country. How cool is that?
Also read: Spending A Day Exploring Bangalore
Nowadays, Christmas is celebrated with equal enthusiasm amongst other religions. You can see Christmas trees decorated at every other home. In places like Goa and Kerala, you can see a wreath on every other door and a star inside every home you visit for Christmas. If you’ve no plans to travel during Christmas, visit your relatives, neighbors, and friends. As a final word, keep the child in you alive, who knows tomorrow you too will receive a gift from Father Christmas!
Is Traveling During Christmas In India Expensive?
It depends on how you travel. If you travel in local transport and look for discounts on hotel bookings, traveling during Christmas in India can be cheap. If you plan to do lots of shopping, spend a fortune in clubs and eat at high-end restaurants, your expenses will shoot up.
Should I Reserve Hotels For Christmas?
Yes, and without any delay! Christmas time is a holiday for students, so families step out to spend their vacation. If you’re visiting a popular destination during Christmas, it’s better to reserve your hotel in advance.
Where To Take Children For The Christmas Holidays?
Take your children to Goa, Kerala, Pondicherry, Manali, or Shillong during their Christmas holidays. They’ll love seeing the big Christmas trees, bright Christmas lights, and eating Christmas candies and cakes. If your kids love the water and sand, take them to Goa, Kerala, or Chennai. If they love the snow, take them to Manali, Shillong, or Sikkim.
Is Nightlife Safe During Christmas?
If you take the right precautions, then yes. Nightlife on Goa’s beaches is notorious for rave parties, but if you abide by rules and stick by your friends’ sides, everything will be safe! Just be careful not to drink an unattended drink.
Does It Snow In India During Christmas?
India falls under a tropical climate, so it doesn’t snow throughout the country. But places like Gulmarg, Manali, Sikkim, etc. do see a lot of snowfall during the Christmas season. It’s amazing to spend your Christmas in these hill stations in India!
Can I Decorate A Christmas Tree At Home?
Yes, you totally can! You’ll easily find small Christmas trees made of plastic and metal in the market to bring home and decorate. Don’t forget to hang Christmas ornaments and place cotton balls on the tree to mimic snowfall!
What Is There To Do In Bangalore At Christmas?
There's a lot you can do in Bangalore during Christmas. You can start out by exploring the churches of Bangalore such as St. Patrick’s and The All Saints Church. And then you can relish on some festive sweets at Garden City to keep upi with the Christmas cheer.
Where Can I Go On Christmas Day In Kolkata?
Park Street is one of the most prominent places to visit in Kolkata on Christmas Day. That's the location to shop, taste some Christmas sweets, and enjoy the decorations; you'll wish if Christmas were celebrated every day.