Christmas in India: Bengal
Christians in Bengal focus their anticipation on Christmas Day church services. Boys and men gather regularly to practice the music for the Christmas program. Women clean the home. This cleaning includes giving the walls a fresh coat of whitewash or clay, and decorating the house with marigolds, leaves, and brightly colored paper. Girls make decorations for the church, such as paper chains and chains of marigolds.
On Christmas Eve boys and young men gather at the church, festooning it with palm branches, wreaths, garlands of marigolds, and paper chains. Then they set up a Christmas tree just outside the building. Afterwards they go caroling.
On Christmas Day Bengali Christians enjoy special foods, such as fruitcake, dates, oranges, raisins, coconut-filled rice cakes, fried rice, and meat with curry sauce. Children often deliver plates of these special Christmas foods to their friends.
Worshipers, decked out in new clothes if possible, pack Christmas Day church services. Services generally include a sermon and choral music. After the conclusion of the service the congregation crowds around the Christmas tree for the distribution of gifts. Poorer members of the congregation can expect gifts of new clothes, and children receive trinkets from the Sunday school.
Many Santals live in the state of Bengal. These tribal people celebrate Christmas for five days. Girls dance up and down the streets and sing songs. Boys also take to the streets, entertaining the public by playing instruments. Onlookers often treat the boys and girls to fried rice and tea after their performances.