Unwrap the magic at these lesser-known Christmas destinations in India - Hindustan Times
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Unwrap the magic at these lesser-known Christmas destinations in India

Dec 29, 2023 12:17 PM IST

Surrounded by cathedrals decked out with holiday light displays and streetside Christmas markets, these Indian cities are as festive as it gets.

A city’s transformation with twinkly lights on trees and jam-filled pastries signals the beginning of the Christmas season with local markets brimming with lawn ornaments, life-size Santa Claus statues and illuminations on churches and popular attractions. The Christan festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ—believed to be the son of God—is an annual holiday marked by the Roman Catholic Church. Dating back centuries, the festivities around Christmas are unique in each country and while celebrations in Western and European countries are commonplace, in India, the national holiday calls for week-long celebrations in many cities.

Dating back centuries, the festivities around Christmas are unique in each country and while celebrations in Western and European countries are commonplace, in India, the national holiday calls for week-long celebrations in many cities.
Dating back centuries, the festivities around Christmas are unique in each country and while celebrations in Western and European countries are commonplace, in India, the national holiday calls for week-long celebrations in many cities.

Themed markets take over last for weeks, instead of the days close to eve, letting residents indulge in the mandatory mulled wine, no-holds-barred Christmassy dessert menus at restaurants and silly (sometimes frivolous if we talk Grinch) sweaters.

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"We are observing a steady and promising trend in travel bookings with a focused interest in destinations like Goa, Manali, Pondicherry and more for the last week of December, says Rajesh Magow, Co-Founder and Group CEO, of MakeMyTrip. “There has been an increase in the number of room nights booked this year compared to last, despite the average 10% increase in fares, which is typical for this time of year,” he adds. According to research data on inbound tourism from online travel booking platform Agoda, metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and more will see an uptick in footfall to observe the festival. Here are some of the best destinations in India for a holiday treat.

Kochi, Kerala

In Kochi, Christmas is synonymous with the Cochin Carnival which takes place in Fort Kochi every year from 25th December to 1st January. The main highlight is the burning of a symbolic Santa effigy—a 50-foot figure of Father Time or Pappanji—which is then torched on New Year’s Eve, reflecting the ending of the previous year’s troubles. From tree decorations at Veli Maidan, a sky lantern display inspired by Macao traditions, and a Christmas Village at Keezhupadam. K.B. Jacob Road transforms into a festive thoroughfare for the Cochin Carnival procession on January 1, showcasing 800 stars and 25,000 meters of cloth buntings. Still not convinced? Mattancherry, a short detour from Kochi is where you can find some of the best Christmas cakes and a bite of the Mattancherry spice mature plum cake at the Pandhal Cake Shop is a qualifier to be on Santa’s nice list.

Panaji and Margao, Goa

At Panjim and Margao Municipal Markets stalls teeming with intricately crafted Christmas decor—ornaments, wreaths, and lights—steal the show. Arrive in Panaji and the lit-up Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception against the tropical backdrop can single-handedly define a Goan Christmas. This is one destination where you would want to skip the line for a traditional Christmas cake and experience desserts like bebinca, doce, and dodol. In Margao, attend midnight Mass at Holy Spirit Church, explore markets, and enjoy beachside celebrations at Colva Beach. Feeling crafty? Visit the Azad Maidan market Christmassy outerwear to bring on the festive spirit, literally.

Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Landing in Manali on or close to Christmas Eve, hop to St. Mary's Church to experience a midnight mass for a spiritual experience. The Mall Road is the go-to spot where you can soak in both the city and the lingering charm of the holiday season. From curbside eateries (especially in Old Manali) to fine-dining restaurants, the hospitality industry dons their red Santa hat to offer the perfect white Christmas. Don’t forget to save some space for traditional Himachali dishes such as Sidu, Babru, Kullu Trout, and Thukpa and accompaniments like apricot or apple chutney alongside the classic mulled wine that you can enjoy at many bars and cakeries.

Pondicherry

Pondicherry, the French capital of India, is the home of all things zen and cool and its Christmas revelry is anchored by the adorned Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Church of Our Lady of Angels. The Singspirations choir orchestrates a ten-night series of beachside Christmas music concerts, building anticipation for the grand Christmas Eve celebration. Mission Street hosts the highly anticipated Christmas Market, Marche de Noel, renowned for its festive charm.

Nainital, Uttarakhand

In Nainital, the Christmas spirit is where Uttarakhand's scenic locations dress to impress in festive lighting. The Mall Road in Nainital is aglow with lights, and speakers line the street for revellers. Forest rest houses and bungalows in Jim Corbett and Rajaji tiger reserves offer a quieter retreat. The lakeside scenes of Naini Lake, Sattal Lake, and Bhimtal Lake mimic those of an animated Christmas movie with people from across the country bundled up and exploring the various mini-markets, adoring the reflection of lights on the lake water and indulging in Pahari dishes like Kafuli, Baadi, Bal Mithai, Ras and some street favourites like Bun Tikki.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Sneha Chakraborty writes on travel, food, culture, gadgets and lifestyle for the Daily Entertainment and Lifestyle supplement, HT City.

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