Christmas Celebrations in Mumbai
Christmas is comprised of two words, ‘Christ’ and ‘Mass’ and it means ‘mass celebration of Jesus Christ.’ The best thing about celebrating Christmas in Mumbai is that since it is a Metropolitan city, people of all communities get together and enjoy the festive season. The cool and pleasant winter of the city adds further delight to the celebrations. Since the New Year is also not-so-far- away, people either plan a quick trip to some place or they stay back to celebrate with their family and friends.

The Midnight Mass

There are numerous churches in the city where Christians attend the Midnight Mass. One of the most popular churches is the Mount Mary’s Basilica in Bandra. It sits atop a small hill facing the ocean near the Bandra Bandstand. The building is about 100 years old and is thronged by thousands of worshipers during Christmas. It is regarded as the most blessed place to be for the Midnight Mass.

Other popular churches to attend the Midnight Mass include the Saint Michael’s Church in Mahim and Holy Name Cathedral (aka Wodehouse Church) in Colaba.

All churches are ornately decorated and carol singing begins at around 11 or 11:30 followed by the mass. Most Christians make it a point to attend the Midnight Mass at their parish church if they are not able to make it to any of the popular churches.

Celebration and Sentiment

Mumbai becomes a party hub at the time of Christmas, especially places like Bandra and Mahim which are per-dominantly Catholic areas. All streets are decorated with lights and festoons and Christmas trees can be spotted at almost every sidewalk in Bandra. Big city malls like Phoenix in the Lower Parel place a gigantic Christmas tree which the shoppers are also invited to decorate.

Most houses decorate a Christmas tree and place gifts below the tree which are then exchanged in the evening. The entrance door is adorned with ribbons, garlands and a Christmas holly which helps to keep evil out. There is lighting on trees and windows with star-shaped lanterns outside each window. A number of churches and buildings make the ‘Christmas crib’ which is a representation of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. All shops and homes are decked up and play the Christmas carols all day. In the evening, couples dressed at their best are seen on the dance floor jiving and celebrating with their partners, families and friends.

There is an annual event called the Christmas Bazaar which takes place in Mahim or Bandra where homemade sweets and food items are sold.  Choir practice has assumed a lot of importance in the last few years and different choirs perform at various Christmas parties and functions apart from performing in the church.

Food and Drinks

Christmas cookies, Christmas cakes and Christmas candies are the highlights of the Christmas food. Freshly baked cookies and plum cake, marzipan, pudding, rum n’ raisin cake, ginger bread treats and cup cakes are available in bakeries or prepared at home. The bakeries hold special discounts and offer a generous treat of sweets, savories and other goodies in their Christmas basket.

Earlier, the celebration used to be a home and community affair with people celebrating it amongst themselves. Today, it has become more commercial with a number of hotels and lounges throwing a Christmas Party with drinks, food and of course Santa Claus.

The traditional Christmas dinner in Mumbai includes succulent roast preparations of turkey or chicken. The more privileged go for a lamb or duck. The Goans, Manglorians and East Indians residing in Mumbai usually have ‘sorpotel’ (a spicy pork recipe) and ‘vindaloos’ (a curried dish made of chicken or shellfish) on their menu.

However, the celebration is incomplete without eggnog (a traditional alcoholic drink), wine and cocktails. Children settle for mock-tails and other non alcoholic beverages.

Today, many restaurants offer Christmas brunches, lunches and dinners with an International touch to their menus. It is a preferred choice of a chosen few. However, the majority still devour the traditional dishes.

Old timers believe that the celebration is becoming increasingly westernized with the people focusing more on enjoying the festivities rather than actual religious traditions.  Therefore, a lot of emphasis is placed on home preparations of food and Christmas gifts and celebration of the festival with near and dear ones.

With the festival becoming increasingly secular in Mumbai, it is indeed a mass celebration of birth of Jesus Christ, a time of cheer and joyous celebration for Christians and non Christians alike.
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