Christmas Traditions in India
Though the majority of Indians are Hindu, millions of people still celebrate Christmas in India (called Bada Din, meaning “big day”).
Church on Christmas
A special tradition is attending Midnight Mass with family and friends. Churches in India are decorated with poinsettia flowers and candles, especially for this important service. Afterward, there is a feast of different delicacies (often biryanis, a dish made with rice and meat), and gifts are exchanged.
Some families display small clay oil-burning lamps and decorate their homes with banana or mango leaves. Mango leaves are an important tradition because the mango tree is considered sacred, and its leaves are used to decorate for every special occasion.
Traditional Foods: Kheer
Many people start preparing for Christmas in India as early as a month ahead by cleaning their homes in preparation for guests. They also make a traditional cake, or a sweet rice pudding called kheer, to be shared not just with family, but with neighbors as well!
Kheer is a traditional Indian dessert. It can be made with rice, vermicelli or cracked wheat. The rice-based kheer, however, is the most popular. It is believed that kheer inspired the popular Western dessert rice pudding. Kheer has raisins and different kinds of nuts in it and is not as thick as rice pudding. Try making kheer with your family this Christmas!
Ingredients to Make Kheer
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 1 cup Basmati rice
- 1⁄2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1⁄4 cup raisins
- Optional: 1⁄2 tsp rose water, 1⁄4 cup sliced almonds and 1⁄4 cup pistachios, chopped.
Step 1: In a medium non-stick pot, combine the milk, coconut milk and sugar and bring to a boil.
Step 2: Next, add the rice to the pot and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 3: Once the mixture begins to thicken, use a whisk to stir in the cardamom.
Step 4: Stir in the raisins and optional rose water. Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Once the mixture begins to thicken again, remove from the heat.
Step 5: Decorate with nuts if you like. Enjoy your kheer warm or cold!