HAPPY HOLIDAYS

What Christmas looks like in India, a country of 24 million Christians

Festive fever.
Festive fever.
Image: Reuters/Ajay Verma
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This year, Christmas seems particularly fraught in some parts of India.

A right-wing Hindu group in the state of Uttar Pradesh has warned schools not to celebrate the occasion, claiming it would lead to “forced conversions” to Christianity. Meanwhile, in Madhya Pradesh, a group of carol singers was recently detained by the police and had their car torched, reportedly for the same reason.

But Christmas has become more than a religious festival in the country, which is home to around 24 million Christians who account for just over 2% of the total population. In recent years, Christmas has evolved into something that is celebrated in almost every city by locals of different faiths, who decorate their homes with trees and lights, and even cook up delicious feasts for friends and family. Across India, you’ll spot vendors on the streets selling Santa hats, neighbourhood stores bursting with trees, tinsel, the occasional carol singers, and other such things.

After all, Christmas is an excellent way to prolong the festive season, and kickstart the celebrations for the year to come.

Here’s a selection of recent photographs of Christmas in India:

A vendor wearing a Santa Claus cap waits for customers in a street ahead of Christmas in Kolkata, India, Dec. 19, 2017.
A vendor wearing a Santa Claus cap waits for customers in a street ahead of Christmas in Kolkata, India, Dec. 19, 2017.
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri -
Indians buy Christmas decorations in Kolkata.
Indians buy Christmas decorations in Kolkata.
Image: EPA-EFE/Piyal Adhikary
A vendor sells Christmas goodies on a street in Mumbai, India, Dec. 14, 2017.
A vendor sells Christmas goodies on a street in Mumbai, India, Dec. 14, 2017.
Image: Reuters/Shailesh Andrade
Inflatable Santas and other Christmas decoration items are displayed for sale at a roadside shop in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Inflatable Santas and other Christmas decoration items are displayed for sale at a roadside shop in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Image: AP Photo/R S Iyer
A man dresses as Santa Claus waits to perform along a road in Kolkata, India, Dec. 19, 2017.
A man dresses as Santa Claus waits to perform along a road in Kolkata, India, Dec. 19, 2017.
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Children dressed in Santa Claus costumes sit inside a classroom before participating in Christmas celebrations at a school in Chandigarh.
Children dressed in Santa Claus costumes sit inside a classroom before participating in Christmas celebrations at a school in Chandigarh.
Image: Reuters/Ajay Verma
A man paints a Santa Claus model at a workshop ahead of Christmas celebrations in Kolkata, India, Dec. 08, 2017.
A man paints a Santa Claus model at a workshop ahead of Christmas celebrations in Kolkata, India, Dec. 08, 2017.
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A man applies finishing touches to a Santa Claus model at a workshop ahead of Christmas celebrations in Kolkata, India, Dec. 08, 2017.
A man applies finishing touches to a Santa Claus model at a workshop ahead of Christmas celebrations in Kolkata, India, Dec. 08, 2017.
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A girl wearing Santa Claus-themed headband sells decorative items ahead of Christmas at a market in New Delhi, India.
A girl wearing Santa Claus-themed headband sells decorative items ahead of Christmas at a market in New Delhi, India.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
A giant Christmas Tree lit up with colorful lights is installed outside a shopping mall for the upcoming Christmas celebrations in Bangalore, India.
A giant Christmas Tree lit up with colorful lights is installed outside a shopping mall for the upcoming Christmas celebrations in Bangalore, India.
Image: EPA-EFE/Jagadeesh NV
An Indian man dressed as Santa sings Christmas carols with children as he with other devotees visit house to house during Christmas celebrations in Hyderabad, India.
An Indian man dressed as Santa sings Christmas carols with children as he with other devotees visit house to house during Christmas celebrations in Hyderabad, India.
Image: AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.
Women shop for Christmas decorations at a market in Mumbai, India.
Women shop for Christmas decorations at a market in Mumbai, India.
Image: AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool