This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Bells, Cakes, Candles And Carols: What Makes The Merriment So Amazingly Contagious?

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Karmanye Thadani:

Ever since I was a small kid, I remember Christmas trees being decorated in our home and our parents giving my elder brother and me gifts on behalf of Santa Claus. Today, I happen to have authored books, but my very first piece of writing that was published was a piece on Christmas for our school magazine when I was in Class III, which talked about Santa and Rudolph. In Class VII, for the inter-section English Creative Writing Competition in our school, I wrote a long poem on Christmas, which went like this — “One of my favourite festivals is Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ…” and it won me the first prize. Am I a Christian? No, I am a Hindu, and one who has declined several offers of converting to Christianity made by people on interfaith discussion forums on the internet in the last few years! When I wrote those pieces as a kid, did it even occur to me that I wasn’t a Christian? I guess not.


On the 25th of December the world over, people celebrated Christmas. But why should I care so much about that festival, someone may ask… After all, I am not a Christian. Sure, one can have Christian friends, and I indeed have quite a few of them, but is there so much enthusiasm among us, educated Hindus in Delhi or Mumbai, including those with close Christian friends, for Easter, for example? And taking this further, I happen to have Muslim friends too, and though I do wish them on their festivals and have even enjoyed eating ‘sheer khorma’ on Id-ul-Fitr, somehow, the festival doesn’t feel as much my own as Christmas does (obviously no offence meant against Muslim friends). Why is it that the urban, educated Hindu population of our country that dotes on Khans in our film industry, fondly recites the poetry of Ghalib and mostly takes great pride in India’s grand composite culture, examples of which would include the Jama Masjid in Delhi, but not so much, if any at all, in symbols of Hindu culture in Nepal or Southeast Asia (such as the historic Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia) or not even bother to be cognizant of Hinduism having traditionally existed for centuries outside our subcontinent and without giving a second thought, go to pilgrimages to shrines of Muslim saints (mostly notably that of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer), more aware of the story behind Christmas than the one behind Id-ul-Fitr or Id-ul-Zuha? I am a Sindhi Hindu, and we traditionally revere the Sikh Gurus, and we have a langar every year on Guru Parab in our mostly Sindhi colony in Delhi; yet, that festival doesn’t appeal to me as much as Christmas does. Why?

I had gone to Singapore recently for a leisure trip with family, and my ethnographic instincts that cannot be suppressed compelled me to acknowledge that Singapore is truly a pluralistic country like India in terms of its racial and religious diversity, perhaps even more than India, for no one can possibly give a monochromatic definition of a Singaporean (it’s a country inhabited by people who trace their roots to China, Malaysia, India and elsewhere, practising their different religions and presenting an undoubtedly remarkable working model of multiculturalism; the average American in our imagination is still a white whose ancestors hit the shores of that country somewhere in the 1700s, but one can’t say the same for an average Singaporean), though there are elements in India consciously or subconsciously giving a monochromatic definition of an Indian, when an Indian with mongoloid features or even an Anglo-Indian is not deemed as a “proper Indian”, leave alone those with a saffron bent of mind, though it is very important to note that the shades of saffron vary, from being very light to very dark, but many (not all) with saffron shades are averse to Christians (as also Western culture) too.

Coming back to the gist of this piece with its primarily festive and light-hearted spirit. On the 20th of December itself, one could hear Christmas carols being sung in malls in Singapore. A cab driver, in a casual conversation with me, asked if Christmas was a big festival in India, and I replied in the affirmative, and he went on to say that it was the same in his country, which, like India, doesn’t have a Christian-majority population. I recalled Christmas having been celebrated with pomp and show in a visit to Muslim-majority Malaysia too some years back, with a huge Christmas tree adorning the airport in Kuala Lumpur being the first attraction as we made our entry in the city after a flight from Delhi, and the same was the scenario in the Hindu-majority Indonesian island of Bali we visited on that very trip.

So, what is it that gives Christmas the global feel? As Nitum Jain points out in an article on this very portal— “Some may call it commercialization, others may name this rising popularity ‘Westernization’, but there is no denying that Christmas is here to stay.”

It certainly cannot be denied that globalization is bound to have more of a Western flavour than Eastern, owing to the dominance of the West since the Industrial Revolution, and so, while yoga, the Indian curry and Taekwondo may be global hits, it’s much easier for facets of Western culture to seep into our consciousness, leading us to be more aware of the history of ancient Greece than that of our neighbour China, for example, but then, why isn’t Easter, Thanksgiving or Halloween such a big festival for non-Christians globally? One can understand Muslims not wanting to celebrate Easter, for the Islamic version of Jesus rejects his resurrection, but why isn’t it appealing to Hindus? Why don’t many Hindus even know the significance of Good Friday for Christians, in spite of it being a holiday in our schools and Govt. offices, and why do they still celebrate Christmas?

The answer is very simple — Christmas as a festival reaches out to the most tender and loved section of any society — children. The imagery of Santa Claus giving gifts to children appeals to one and all, irrespective of national or religious boundaries. With all due respect to Jesus, it’s actually Santa Claus who has become more emblematic of Christmas in non-Christian societies. We love Santa and so, we love Christmas. And indeed, that’s all it can take for something to go global.

In fact, in the light of this, it may amuse the readers to note that the immense popularity of this festival has annoyed a tiny minority of fanatic Christians. I learnt this from Mr. Russel Bryant, a practising Christian from Britain, who posted in my Orkut community ‘Hindu-Christian Dialogue’ - “You might be amused to know that a small minority of Christian fundamentalists believe that Santa Claus is a lie from the pit of hell to mislead people away from the real story of Christmas.

I personally know a young woman who wrote a paper at Cedarville University on this very subject. She is now teaching in a school in Pennsylvania.

Not hard to believe, for when such Christians see Santa stealing the limelight from Jesus, and even “non-believers” enjoying their festival this way, they do find something terribly wrong! Fanatic Muslims fare no better, pointing out that since Jesus is their religious figure too, they shouldn’t celebrate his birthday the way the Christians celebrate it, for the Quranic perspective of Jesus is quite different from the Biblical one! Still others, irrespective of faith, point out how celebrating the festival is wrong, for even if Jesus did exist, there is no Biblical evidence to support the 25th of December as being his birthday, and this festival actually having Greco Roman pagan roots, but those celebrating it, without contesting the same, ask — what’s wrong in celebrating and spreading joy?

And so, I take this golden opportunity to wish one and all a belated Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: The author is a 23-year-old freelance writer based in New Delhi. A lawyer by qualification, he has co-authored two short books, namely ‘Onslaughts on Free Speech in India by Means of Unwarranted Film Bans’ and ‘Women and Sport in India and the World’. He is currently writing another book on Sino-Indian relations. To read his other posts click here. [/box]

Photo credit

Photo Credit  

You must be to comment.
  1. Daphne

    Loved the article.

  2. Karmanye Thadani

    Thank you so much. 🙂 And ya, wish you a happy new year! 🙂

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Sparsh Choudhary

By Karthika S Nair

By Ashmita

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below