Traveling to India around the holidays never fails to surprise me. I never expect Christmas to have as much of a presence in the predominantly Hindu country, but the city of Chennai is ripe with its own Christmas traditions:

  • The Christmas tree, tropical-style. The absence of fir trees from many parts of India leads many to decorate mango or banana trees with a variety of decorations including garlands of palm fronds, colored stones, gold paint, green silk and red-orange bows.
  • Poinsettias, anywhere and everywhere. Local Indian churches make use of the abundance of tropical flowers to fill every room with a vibrant display.
  • Small, clay Diwali lamps. The small lamps, traditionally used during the Hindu holiday of Diwali, are an indication that in the eyes of some, all holidays really are the same.
  • And most importantly, food. Christmas is accompanied by treats like ginger wine, fruit cake and the Indian pork dish Vindaloo, served with saffron rice. If you’re feeling some ethnic holiday food, you can try this recipe.