Although Christians only make up around 5% of India’s population, the country loves to celebrate Christmas and join in the merry-making. You’ll find dazzling decorations, Christmas markets, glorious feasts, carol singing and Midnight Mass in churches across the country. So where to go first? From the sunny beaches of Goa to the snowy Himalayas of Manali, here are the best places to visit in India during Christmas for a very merry Yuletide season.
Famed as ‘The City of Joy’, Kolkata is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in India. The city puts on a dazzling festival, with illuminated streets, decorated churches and bakeries overflowing with cakes and treats. Head to Park Street to see the beautiful decorations, food stalls, and choir groups performing Christmas carols on stage. There’s also a Christmas parade that makes its way along Park Street.
If you want to attend Midnight Mass, head to the stunning Saint Paul’s Cathedral, near Victoria Memorial. You should also check out Bow Barracks, where you’ll find a large Anglo-Indian community who put on amazing Christmas events. Watch performances by the best singers and bands in Kolkata, and join the hundreds of people dancing in the streets. This is a real Indian party!
With its beautiful beaches and fantastic nightlife, Goa is the perfect place to get into the festive spirit in India. The city also has a large Catholic population and many old Portuguese-style churches, and they fill up with Christmas cheer every holiday season. The locals decorate their homes, streets, bars and churches with twinkling lights and poinsettia flowers, and you’ll find lots of live music and special events around town in the lead-up to Christmas.
Come Christmas Eve, you’ll hear Christmas carols being sung late into the night, with many churches holding Midnight Mass. Be sure to check out the Mae de Deus Church in North Goa and the celebrations in the Fontainhas Latin Quarter. This is one India Christmas you won’t soon forget!
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: Colourful India
The beautiful backwaters of Kerala are famed for their holiday festivities. There is a large Christian population with many churches across the state, and you’ll see houses, churches, streets and markets decorated in Christmas lights and ornaments. You can join the hundreds of people who gather at the churches for Midnight Mass, watch the Christmas play, relax on the stunning beaches, or even have a bonfire on the beach.
Don’t miss the Cochin Carnival in Fort Kochi, where on New Year’s Eve, the locals burn a giant Santa effigy at midnight (called Pappanji). There’s also a lively street parade on New Year’s Day and it’s the perfect way to top off your India Christmas trip.
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: Captivating Kerala
If you’re dreaming of a traditional Christmas in India, Mumbai is a great place to be. Head to the suburb of Bandra and you’ll find a predominantly Catholic community that put on an amazing Christmas show. Wander along Hill Road to see gorgeous decorations, Christmas trees and bakeries packed with festive goodies, and be sure to watch the annual ‘Carols on Convent Road’.
There’s also the 200-year-old Matharpacady village where you’ll find some wonderful Christmas celebrations. Plus, almost all the churches around Mumbai hold a moving Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: Colours of Rajasthan with Mumbai
Delhi loves to party and Christmas is no different. This buzzing city really gets into the festive spirit, with clubs and restaurants holding themed parties and menus, and decorations lining the streets and malls.
Head to Connaught Place and you’ll find twinkling lights, food stalls and street vendors selling all kinds of Christmas treats. If you want to attend church, the Sacred Heart Cathedral holds the most popular Midnight Mass in the city. You also can’t miss the Capital City Minstrel choir concert for an extra dose of Christmas cheer in Delhi.
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: Uncover India: Delhi to Kerala
From carols and Midnight Mass in the many churches to festive feasts and nightlong parties, Chennai has the perfect blend of Christmas traditions and entertainment in India. Hop around the clubs and pubs for lively parties, head to the beaches for more festive fun, or explore the Phoenix Market City mall for delicious food and fantastic events.
You can also visit the Velankanni Church, where thousands of worshippers go during the Christmas season. Take to the streets, and you might even see locals visiting houses and playing music to herald the birth of Christ, with Santa Claus handing out gifts to children.
RELATED CONTENT: 10 Extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Looking for a European Christmas in India? You’ve got to visit the gorgeous coastal town of Pondicherry. As a former French colony, the town is famed for its leafy French Quarter, or ‘Little France’, lined with colonial villas and boutiques. At Christmas, the town lights up with merry-making. Indulge in mulled wine and traditional yule logs at the Christmas market in the French International School, or watch the choirs performing on the seaside promenade.
You can even attend a French-themed Christmas service at the beautifully decorated Eglise Notre Dame des Anges (Our Lady of Angels Church). Or simply relax on the peaceful beaches for an unforgettable India Christmas.
Dreaming of a White Christmas? India certainly delivers! Head to the Himalayan resort town of Manali, in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state. You’ll discover spectacular snow-capped mountains, enchanting pine forests, starry skies, romantic log cabins and Christmas festivities galore!
Hotels and restaurants put on special Christmas feasts mixed with the local Himachal cuisine, and you’ll get to enjoy carols and the Himachal Kullu folk music. Sing songs around the bonfire, make some jolly snowmen, or snuggle up by the fireplace with a hot chocolate and wait for Santa to arrive. Whatever you do in Manali, you’re sure to have a magical Christmas.
Home to glittering glaciers, alpine meadows, and the highest mountain in India, the northeastern state of Sikkim is one of the most stunning places to celebrate Christmas in India. This Himalayan paradise becomes a winter wonderland during the festive season, with towns dusted in fresh snow and twinkling Christmas decorations.
Head to the pubs and restaurants for traditional Christmas feasts or visit the many churches for Christmas services. With its magical atmosphere and stunning scenery, you can’t miss the holiday season in Sikkim.
EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF: India’s Golden Triangle with Varanasi and Nepal
Set in the Himalayan foothills in the northern Himachal Pradesh state, Shimla is a gorgeous place to celebrate Christmas in India. The city has a large Christian population who love to decorate the streets, churches and houses in dazzling lights, and get into the festive spirit.
You’ll find local bands playing gospel music in the churches, the Lakkar Bazaar selling wooden crafts and toys, and magical snow-dusted hills rising in the distance. You can even attend mass Christ Church, for a truly traditional Christmas in India.
RELATED CONTENT: 10 things you should never eat or drink while travelling in India
If your favourite part of Christmas is the delicious food and desserts, you can’t miss Bangalore! It’s one of the best places for a culinary Christmas in India, with plenty of superb restaurants and bakeries dishing up festive treats. You’ll find rum-soaked cakes, plum cakes and ginger tea in the city’s top bakeries. Or if you’re looking for Christmas dinner, you’ll find restaurants serving up traditional turkey feasts with all the trimmings.
Once you’re satisfied, you can wander the streets of Bangalore and stop at the beautiful Catholic churches, like St Patrick’s Church on Brigade Road and The All Saints Church on Hosur. They’ve all got their own Christmas decorations and festivities to check out, and it’s a wonderful time of year to experience Bangalore.
Have you ever celebrated Christmas in India? Let us know in the comments below!