The kuswar (or sweets platter, also called kosvar, konswat and similar variations) will have a slice of Christmas cake, marzipan, kul-kuls (fried dough bits in various shapes), sweets made with milk cream, dal or semolina, nankatai, neuries (or karanjis), date rolls and rose cookies(Praful Gangurde/HT)
The kuswar (or sweets platter, also called kosvar, konswat and similar variations) will have a slice of Christmas cake, marzipan, kul-kuls (fried dough bits in various shapes), sweets made with milk cream, dal or semolina, nankatai, neuries (or karanjis), date rolls and rose cookies(Praful Gangurde/HT)

The essential East-Indian Christmas

No reindeer? No snow? No problem. East Indians, the city’s oldest Christians, celebrate with unique traditions
By Rachel Lopez | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 09, 2019 04:27 PM IST

Growing up, one of my classmates once had great trouble explaining where her home town was.

“I’m from Bombay,” she said.

“Ah. So you’re Maharashtrian,” I replied.

“No. No. I’m Catholic.”

“Then you must be from Mangalore, Goa or Kerala, right?”

“No. I’m East Indian. THIS is my native place!”

“But we are in west India! So where is your native place?”

Perhaps it was the timing. I’d just learned about the East India Company in history class and convinced myself that she was hiding a connection to our British colonisers. Worse, no one else could quite explain what made East Indians different from other Catholics.

I know better now. India’s East Indians are Catholics who’ve indeed been natives of Bombay, Thane and Palghar. They trace their Christian roots as far back as the 6th century AD, long before the Portuguese began consolidating the community in the 1500s and certainly before they gave Bombay over to the British in 1661. Much of this clarity comes from efforts within the community to record and popularise their unique Portuguese-Christian-Indian history and culture.

The most recent of those efforts is the East Indian Memory Co, a digital initiative set up in 2017 by Reena Pereira-Almeida, who divides her time between Brisbane and Mumbai. Via a website and social media, she records characteristics, artefacts and oral histories of the fast-changing community. See what she considers integral to an East Indian Christmas:

Everything is customised

“Christmas falls smack bang in the midst of the wedding season,” Pereira-Almeida says. This means December marks a swell in non-resident East Indians returning home for the festivities. “For women, preparations begin when tailors and seamstresses are booked months in advance so that the dresses will be ready in time for Christmas. In Bassein and Bombay, your ensemble is only as good as your tailor and the best ones are flooded with orders by October.”

And starts early

Churches start prep from the first Sunday of December, which Pereira-Almeida says is “the cue for villages and neighbourhoods to start working on their Nativity scenes, called gothas”. The tableau is elaborate – some are set up with gigantic stars or by lakes or baokhals (ponds) and feature light and sound shows that are typically unveiled after midnight mass on December 25. “Nearly every gotha features a socio-political theme,” she adds. “Many also highlight issues plaguing the community (alcoholism, attacks on Christians, female empowerment, drug abuse among the youth, etc).” The gothas compete at regional and city-wide contests, and winners get bragging rights for the year.

There’s plenty of food

“Families start making the sweets one week before Christmas, allowing enough time to make quantities large enough to distribute to friends and family,” Pereira-Almeida says. The kuswar (or sweets platter, also called kosvar, konswat and similar variations) will have a slice of Christmas cake, marzipan, kul-kuls (fried dough bits in various shapes), sweets made with milk cream, dal or semolina, nankatai, neuries (or karanjis), date rolls and rose cookies. “Kuswar from families that send the tastiest treats are always anticipated.”

And soup too

“Pintyacha Sop, a bracing and soul-warming country chicken soup [‘sop’ is pronounced like ‘soap’] is not only a common East Indian folk medicine but also a Christmas Eve tradition,” Pereira-Almeida says. “We prepare it before heading out for midnight mass and it’s the first thing we have once we return home.” After the sop come the Christmas sweets and cake, the fruity/boozy plum version or the fancier one with date and walnut.

Look out for carollers

On the nights leading up to Christmas, carollers dress up in the traditional sari, the lugra, and travel in an open jeep or bullock cart singing Christmas carols in Marathi and English. “The end of the parade usually involves a skit or some other form of entertainment,” Pereira-Almeida says. “It’s a wonderful display of community spirit.”

Christmas day is hectic

An East Indian will usually wake up late on Christmas Day (if they have attended midnight service/partied hard), continue with preparations for Christmas lunch, call friends and family to wish them and sit down to a leisurely family lunch. “A post-prandial nap around tea time usually follows,”says Pereira-Almeida. “And at twilight, everyone sets out to watch/participate in athletic tournaments or entertainment at the parish church.”

Does it end with a drink?

Only if you want it to. “There is always a batch of khimad brewing on the stovetop on a cold Christmas night. A hot toddy concoction made with coriander, pieces of turmeric and spices, a finger or two of country liquor or whisky is usually added to a glass of khimad.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The magistrate's contention that she was not aware of the acitivities of her associate was rejected by the court.
The magistrate's contention that she was not aware of the acitivities of her associate was rejected by the court.

Bombay HC refuses pre-arrest bail to judicial magistrate booked in bribery case

PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 10:17 AM IST
  • While rejecting the anticipatory bail, the court said there was a strong indication of the applicant’s involvement in the offence.
Close
The suspicious car carrying gelatin found outside Mukesh Ambani residence Antilia, has been taken to custody by CBI. (ANI Photo)
The suspicious car carrying gelatin found outside Mukesh Ambani residence Antilia, has been taken to custody by CBI. (ANI Photo)

Autopsy report of owner of SUV found near Ambani's house 'reserved'

Posted by Prashasti Singh | PTI, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 09:26 AM IST
The autopsy report of Hiren (46), who was found dead in a creek in neighbouring Thane on Friday morning, reserved the opinion on the cause of death, officials said.
Close
Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus was seen lit up ahead of International Women's Day(ANI Twitter)
Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus was seen lit up ahead of International Women's Day(ANI Twitter)

International Women's Day: Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus lights up

Written by Prashasti Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 06:14 AM IST
International Women's Day is observed every year on March 8 in order to create awareness about women's issues.
Close
Police security outside Mukesh Ambani's residence Antilla, after explosives were found in an abandoned car in its vicinity, in Mumbai.(PTI)
Police security outside Mukesh Ambani's residence Antilla, after explosives were found in an abandoned car in its vicinity, in Mumbai.(PTI)

Death of owner of car found near Ambani house fans row

By Swapnil Rawal, Anamika Gharat, Mumbai/thane
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:35 AM IST
BJP raised questions over circumstances surrounding Hiren’s death and said it would urge Centre to have NIA take over probe.
Close
Senior citizens Covid-19 vaccination at BKC Covid Centre. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)
Senior citizens Covid-19 vaccination at BKC Covid Centre. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Mumbai reports 1,188 new Covid cases; 26,442 inoculated in 24 hours

By Mehul R Thakkar, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:26 AM IST
The surge in daily reporting of Covid-19 cases continued on Saturday with 1,188 new cases of Covid-19 in the city
Close
Migratory sandpiper birds at a pond near DPS School, Nerul, Seawoods. (HT PHOTO)
Migratory sandpiper birds at a pond near DPS School, Nerul, Seawoods. (HT PHOTO)

Mumbai: Bird-ringing exercise identifies Akshi Beach as crucial habitat for migratory waterbirds

By Prayag Arora-Desai, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:23 AM IST
Of 105 migratory water-birds that were ‘ringed’ or tagged as part of a Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) study at Akshi Beach in September 2019, 31 specimens were resighted at the same location during subsequent months, between October and December 2019
Close
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Mumbai: Man dies by suicide after killing father, grandfather

By Manish K Pathak, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:19 AM IST
A 20-year-old student died by suicide on Saturday morning after allegedly murdering his father and grandfather
Close
 (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Maharashtra goes past 2.2 million Covid-19 infections

By Faisal Malik, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:20 AM IST
The state’s death toll reached 52,440 after 47 casualties were reported, of which 30 occurred in the past 48 hours and 10 were in the past week. The other seven deaths were from the period before last week, officials said.
Close
Preeti Sharma Menon. (Hindustan Times/File)
Preeti Sharma Menon. (Hindustan Times/File)

After Surat success AAP targets Mumbai civic body polls

By Naresh Kamath, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:10 AM IST
‘Surat today, Mumbai tomorrow’, read the tagline of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the city as they celebrated their remarkable performance in the Surat Municipal Corporation, where they won 27 seats in their debut election
Close
Nationalist Congress Party MLC Anil Bhosale.
Nationalist Congress Party MLC Anil Bhosale.

ED arrests NCP MLC from Pune in a 71 crore bank scam

By Vijay Kumar Yadav, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:06 AM IST
The The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday arrested Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member of Legislative Council (MLC) Anil Bhosale and three others in Pune’s Shivajirao Bhosale Co-operative Bank scam
Close
Bombay high court
Bombay high court

Bombay HC allows man to tender evidence to counter wife’s charge of impotency

By Kanchan Chaudhari, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:03 AM IST
The Bombay high court (HC) recently allowed a Borivli resident, whose marriage has been annulled by a civil court at Sangli on the ground of his impotency, to submit medical evidence to prove his “physical competence” at the appellate stage
Close
Mumbai: Man arrested for molesting woman at Bandra station
Mumbai: Man arrested for molesting woman at Bandra station

Mumbai: Man arrested for molesting woman at Bandra station

By Megha Sood, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 12:01 AM IST
The Bandra Government Railway Police (GRP) on Saturday tracked and arrested a 49-year-old man from Antop Hill for allegedly molesting a woman twice at Bandra railway station on Wednesday
Close
The Suvidha centre will be built on a 2,600-square metre plot in Dharavi. (HT FILE)
The Suvidha centre will be built on a 2,600-square metre plot in Dharavi. (HT FILE)

Mumbai civic body plans to build Suvidha centre in Dharavi for better sanitation

By HT Correspondent, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 11:18 PM IST
In Asia’s largest slum Dharavi where 80% of locals depend on community toilets, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has planned to set up a ground-plus-two storey Suvidha centre. The centre will have 111 toilets along with other facilities such as laundry, water ATM. Citizens will also be given education on sanitation at the centre.
Close
For representational purposes only. (HT FILE)
For representational purposes only. (HT FILE)

Mumbai: Pocso court sentences man to 5-year rigorous jail for molesting minor

By Charul Shah, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 11:15 PM IST
In a speedy trial, a special Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) court on Friday sentenced a 52-year-old man to five years of rigorous imprisonment, about two-and-a-half months after he molested a 7-year-old girl residing in his neighbourhood.
Close
NCB has named actor Rhea Chakraborty along with 32 others in the charge sheet in the drug case in connection with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. (HT FILE)
NCB has named actor Rhea Chakraborty along with 32 others in the charge sheet in the drug case in connection with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. (HT FILE)

NCB charge sheet based on inadmissible evidence: Rhea Chakraborty’s lawyer

By Charul Shah, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 11:12 PM IST
A day after the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) filed its charge sheet in the drug case that the agency probed in connection with untimely death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, actor Rhea Chakraborty’s lawyer advocate Satish Maneshinde on Saturday said that it appears to be based on inadmissible evidence.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP