This blogpost is written by one of our German volunteers
While Christmas is a religious celebration and traditions and habits are strongly connected to the religious background of the festival, cultures seem to also have a huge impact on it. In each country there are slight variations in the way we celebrate it.
As a part of our culture exchange – the Indian and German culture – I will give you an insight of the differences I have noticed this Christmas.
India: The birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on the 25th of December. A special tradition is attending Midnight or Morning Mass with family and friends. Cake is shared with neighbors and friends, good food is served within the family.
Germany: The "holy night" – 24th to 25th - of December is celebrated! The family gathers on the 24th, to go to church, afterwards dinner is served, Christmas-songs (along with instruments) are sung and everyone exchanges gifts under the Christmas tree. It's a very cozy festival - it's freezing outside and warm and homely inside the house, with the close knit family. Each year all the children wait for a "white-Christmas" - snow on Christmas. Only one time in my life I experienced that, but it was a true highlight (due climate change it doesn't snow much anymore). On the 25th and the 26th larger family's reunite.
India: Banana or mango tree's are decorated. Furthermore, mango leaves are used to decorate homes. Every house will be decorated with a Christmas star. Churches and
homes are lit up in colourful light chains.
People built cribs in their homes and churches.
We went to a small fishers village close by, which seemed to have a crib-contest ongoing. Every family built their own crib in front of their home. Some cribs were covered by blankets and sheets as a protection of interested neighbors (and therefore competitors) eyes. Others were visible for visitors, built out of banana leaves, clay, stones and painted colourfully.
Germany: the majority of households have a (real) fir-Christmas tree, decorated in purple, red or golden Christmas tree balls. Stars and candles, as well as the
“Adventskranz” are part of the decorations. The “Adventskranz” is made out of branches of fir trees and four candles. Every advent a candle is lit on the fourth advent all of the four candles are lit.
The first recognizable difference lays within the time we eat our special Christmas food. While the food on the 25th of December is “special-food” in India, we have our special Christmas-dinner on the 24th of December in Germany. But there are also differences in what we serve!
India: I ate Biryani for Christmas! All The Hope House girls waited impatiently for their favorite dish this Christmas. (The December month is also referred as the “Biryani-month” in The Hope House.) As a dessert we enjoyed Payasam/Khir with fruits and nuts and one banana. Served with a cup of tea, we ate plum cake later on.
Correct me if I am wrong, but due my research on other dishes I learned that slow-cooked beef-curry’s, several types of coconut and rice dishes are also common Christmas-dishes. The list goes on and on about sweets and desserts.
Germany: I can’t point out one specific dish which is a typical Christmas-dish in Germany. So I did some research and asked some of my friends on what they usually eat for Christmas dinner and the most common dish seems to be quite simple: mashed potato’s and sausages. Others claimed, they eat roast duck or roast goose, dishes that are very time-consuming for the cook. As a lot of young family’s are vegetarian, there are vegetarian-style dishes, like Raclette, or some type of Fondue (: Chocolate Fondue, Cheese Fondue,…). Mostly, there are several of courses in one meal. Last Christmas my family and I ate pumpkin filled with Tofu for Christmas. Traditionally, everyone prepares one course: my aunt and uncle prepare the appetizer, my mother and I prepare the main-course and my grand-parents the dessert.
For some impressions by the girls I made a video on the same topic, interviewing the children and some of my German friends. If you are interested you should definitely check it out on The Hope House social media. I will link it in the comments also.
I want to point out, that the things I mention about Christmas in India are just pieces of information I gathered celebrating Christmas 2022 in Tamil Nadu, India. Certainly, there are other traditions in other parts of India and in other families. As well for Germany! – every family has their own way of celebrating it.
Thank you for reading,