Sunday, January 04, 2009

Christmas in India

12th Day of Christmas
I would like to share with you the following story by my new friend Fr. Prabhakar Kalivela, the priest who is currently assigned to three parishes in Oklahoma.

He recently sent me the following email:
...I had a good Christmas. I celebrated three Masses in three different Churches on Christmas night and one on Christmas day. I have three small churches where I celebrate Masses. These three churches in three small towns in the North Western part of Oklahoma. These three Towns are Okeene, Seiling and Fairview.

The people in my parish have asked me how the celebration of Christmas would be. This is what I wrote for the bulletin of the Sunday before Christmas. Hope you find it interesting.
Christmas Celebration in India

Christmas brings joy to every soul because it is the celebration of the birth of salvation of humankind. It is celebrated all over the world. It is a pleasure for me to tell you how we celebrated Christmas in India. I share from experiences when I was a boy and when I was a priest in India.

I remember very well how I celebrated Christmas as a small boy. A month before Christmas the women in the village get busy cleaning the houses. People whitewash the houses or paint the houses. Clean the streets and decorate the streets. They want their houses look new on Christmas.

There is an art which south Indians call as 'Muggu' and north Indians call as 'Rangoli' which is kind of drawing various shapes with color powders on the streets. Usually women and girls draw these 'muggu' on the streets. This makes the streets colorful and brings festive mood.

Families also participate in cleaning the Church and church campus and decorating the church. There would be a big star placed on the church, Christmas lamps lit around the church. There would also be Christmas Crib built.

Last week before Christmas boys and girls go into the streets and sing Christmas carols in the night. Some children dress like Mary, Joseph, shepherds and Magi and accompany carol singing party. Some of the families invite the children into their homes and serve them coffee and cookies.

This is the time that the children get new pair of clothes. Most of the children get only one pair of clothes in a year that would be at Christmas. One of the excitements for the boys and girls is to show their new clothes to one another on Christmas night when they come together for Mid-night Mass.

Christmas mid-night mass is the main celebration. So people come in big numbers to the church. Some people walk 10 miles to reach the church to attend Mid-night Mass. If the church could not hold all the people they arrange mass outside the church. People sit in the open air in the cold (of course the cold in India is not as cold as here in winter) and attend Mass.

This is the day people eat the best food of their year. Most of the families don't get to eat meat very often because they cannot afford to buy meat. Most of the families may be able to get meat once a month. Some of the families don't get to buy meat at all. But on the Christmas day every house will cook non vegetarian food and the children really look forward to eating meat this day. Mothers also bake cookies and special sweets on this day.

On December 25th evening the statue of Child Jesus is taken in procession in the streets of the village. Every one will go in the procession singing hymns and reciting Rosary. After the procession everybody will come back to the church and the celebration ends with Benediction in the Church.
Father Kalivela is currently using the small stipend he receives from his pastoral work and Mass requests to support his old parish in India. If you would like to request a Mass and at the same time help this young priest, please email him at the following:


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. I love hearing about how Christmas is celebrated in other lands. Thank you for sharing this beautiful message and story. Happy New Year! Kay

Lisa said...

What a wonderful peak into another Catholic culture Christmas. I feel like we don't do nearly enough to celebrate after reading this! Bless this hard-working priest!

Tracy said...

Excellent Esther, thank you for sharing this:)

EC Gefroh said...

Hi Friends. I'm glad you enjoyed Father's story as much as I did.

Marianna Robin Bartholomew said...

I enjoyed reading this, Esther! Thank you. I just met this great priest in the Chicago area today. He had a long layover on his flight back to India. His entire nation is experiencing stress over statehood issues, as various areas are requesting to be carved into new states. His state of Andhra Pradesh is experiencing a "bandh"...a shutdown of shops, public transportation, etc. Let's pray for Fr. Prabhakar, for my missionary priest friend who lives nearby Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy (, and for all the priests and faithful of India, a land less than 2% Christian. May the Lord's light and peace shine for all in this land.

EC Gefroh said...

Marianna, thank you for letting me know about Father Prabhakar. He is in my daily prayers. Hhe is a good friend. I join you in praying for your friend father Kalapuakudy and all the priests. Mahalo for sharing the blog link. God bless.