13 Traditional Christmas Dishes Across India

by Ella

Christmas in India is a vibrant and joyous celebration, marked by a unique blend of religious customs, cultural diversity, and regional variations. Despite being a minority in a predominantly Hindu nation, Indian Christians celebrate Christmas with great enthusiasm and distinct culinary traditions. This article delves into the diverse and rich foods that Indian people eat for Christmas, highlighting regional specialties, traditional dishes, and the influence of various cultural practices on this festive season.

Christmas in India: A Cultural Melting Pot

The Diversity of Indian Christmas Celebrations

India’s diverse cultural and religious landscape shapes the way Christmas is celebrated across the country. The Christian population, though relatively small, is spread across different states, each with its unique customs and culinary practices. From the coastal regions of Kerala and Goa to the urban centers of Mumbai and Kolkata, Christmas in India reflects a rich tapestry of regional influences and historical traditions.


The Influence of Colonial History

India’s colonial past, particularly under Portuguese, British, and French rule, has significantly influenced its Christmas traditions. These influences are evident in the culinary practices, with many Indian Christmas dishes bearing traces of European culinary techniques and ingredients. This blend of local and colonial flavors creates a unique and flavorful festive menu that is distinctly Indian.


Goa: A Coastal Culinary Delight

1. Sorpotel and Vindaloo

Goa, with its significant Catholic population and Portuguese colonial history, is renowned for its elaborate Christmas feasts. Sorpotel and Vindaloo are two quintessential Goan dishes that grace the Christmas table. Sorpotel, a spicy pork dish, is made with vinegar, garlic, and a variety of spices, while Vindaloo, another pork dish, is cooked with a tangy and spicy masala paste.


2. Bebinca

A Goan Christmas feast is incomplete without Bebinca, a traditional multi-layered cake made from coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and ghee. This labor-intensive dessert is baked layer by layer, resulting in a rich and decadent treat that is savored by many during the festive season.


Kerala: A Symphony of Spices

3. Appam and Stew

In Kerala, Christmas is celebrated with a variety of dishes that reflect the state’s rich culinary heritage. Appam, a type of fermented rice pancake, is often served with mutton stew or chicken stew. The stew, made with coconut milk, potatoes, and a medley of spices, is a comforting and aromatic dish that is perfect for the festive season.

4. Kerala Plum Cake

Another staple of Kerala’s Christmas celebrations is the Kerala plum cake. This fruitcake, infused with dried fruits and nuts soaked in rum or brandy, is a beloved dessert. The cake’s rich flavor and moist texture make it a favorite during the holiday season.

Tamil Nadu: A Southern Celebration

5. Biryani

In Tamil Nadu, biryani is a popular dish during Christmas celebrations. This fragrant rice dish, made with basmati rice, meat (usually chicken or mutton), and a blend of spices, is often prepared for festive occasions. Each family has its unique recipe, making every biryani dish a special and personal creation.

6. Palappam and Fish Curry

Palappam, a type of lace-edged pancake, is another festive dish in Tamil Nadu. It is typically served with fish curry, made with fresh coconut milk, tamarind, and a variety of spices. This combination reflects the coastal influences on Tamil Nadu’s cuisine and is a festive favorite.

Maharashtra: A Fusion of Flavors

7. Pork Vindaloo and Fugiyas

In Maharashtra, particularly in the Christian communities of Mumbai, Christmas feasts feature dishes like pork vindaloo and fugiyas. Fugiyas are small, deep-fried bread balls that are often served with spicy pork dishes. These dishes reflect the fusion of Portuguese and local culinary traditions.

8. Kulkuls and Neureos

Maharashtra is also known for its festive sweets like kulkuls and neureos. Kulkuls are crispy, deep-fried pastries shaped into curls, while neureos are sweet dumplings filled with a mixture of coconut, sugar, and nuts. These treats are made in large batches and shared with family and friends during the Christmas season.

Northeast India: A Diverse Array of Dishes

9. Pork with Bamboo Shoots

In the northeastern states of India, such as Nagaland and Mizoram, Christmas celebrations include a variety of local dishes. Pork with bamboo shoots is a popular dish, reflecting the region’s preference for pork and the use of local ingredients. The dish is typically spicy and flavorful, showcasing the culinary traditions of the region.

10. Sticky Rice and Chicken

Another festive favorite in the Northeast is sticky rice and chicken. Sticky rice, often cooked in bamboo, is paired with chicken prepared with local herbs and spices. This combination is both hearty and delicious, making it a perfect festive meal.

Sweet Delights: Christmas Desserts in India

11. Plum Cake and Fruit Cake

Across India, plum cake and fruit cake are synonymous with Christmas. These cakes, filled with dried fruits and nuts soaked in alcohol, are a staple of Christmas celebrations. Each region has its variation, with differences in the type of alcohol used, the fruits and nuts included, and the spices added.

12. Kalkals and Rose Cookies

In addition to cakes, Indian Christmas celebrations feature a variety of traditional sweets like kalkals and rose cookies. Kalkals, also known as kidyo, are small, fried pastries coated in sugar. Rose cookies, made with a special mold, are deep-fried and flavored with cardamom. These sweets are often made in large quantities and shared with loved ones.

13. Coconut and Jaggery Sweets

In the southern states, sweets made with coconut and jaggery are popular during Christmas. Adhirasam and kozhalappam are traditional South Indian sweets that are often prepared for the festive season. These sweets are rich in flavor and reflect the use of local ingredients.

Modern Christmas Feasts: Urban Influences and Global Flavors

Christmas Brunches and Buffets

In urban centers like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, Christmas celebrations have adopted more contemporary and global flavors. Many hotels and restaurants offer elaborate Christmas brunches and buffets, featuring a mix of traditional Indian dishes and Western favorites like roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. These festive meals reflect the cosmopolitan nature of India’s major cities.

Fusion Cuisine

The influence of globalization has also led to the creation of fusion cuisine during Christmas. Dishes like tandoori turkey, masala roast chicken, and Christmas biryani combine traditional Indian spices and cooking techniques with classic Christmas recipes. These fusion dishes offer a unique and delicious twist on the festive menu.

The Spirit of Sharing: Christmas Food Traditions

Community Feasts and Celebrations

One of the most cherished aspects of Christmas in India is the sense of community and sharing. Many churches and community centers organize feasts and celebrations where people come together to share food and celebrate the festive season. These gatherings often feature a variety of dishes, reflecting the diverse culinary traditions of the participants.

Homemade Treats and Gift-Giving

Homemade treats and sweets play a significant role in Indian Christmas celebrations. Families often spend days preparing traditional sweets and snacks, which are then shared with neighbors, friends, and family. Gift-giving is also an integral part of the celebrations, with food gifts being a popular choice. Boxes of homemade sweets, cakes, and savories are exchanged, spreading joy and festivity.

See Also: 13 Chilean Christmas Foods to Celebrate the Festival


Christmas in India is a vibrant and diverse celebration, marked by unique culinary traditions that reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage. From the spicy dishes of Goa and Kerala to the sweet treats of Maharashtra and the Northeast, Indian Christmas food offers a delightful array of flavors and textures. Whether you are enjoying a traditional feast or a modern fusion meal, the spirit of sharing and community is at the heart of the celebrations. Embracing these diverse culinary traditions is a wonderful way to experience the joy and warmth of an Indian Christmas.


1. What are the most popular dishes served during Christmas in India?

Popular dishes include Sorpotel and Vindaloo in Goa, Appam and Stew in Kerala, Biryani in Tamil Nadu, and Pork Vindaloo and Fugiyas in Maharashtra. Sweets like Bebinca, plum cake, kalkals, and rose cookies are also widely enjoyed.

2. How do regional cuisines influence Christmas celebrations in India?

Regional cuisines heavily influence Christmas celebrations, with each region offering unique dishes that reflect local ingredients and culinary traditions. For example, coastal regions like Goa and Kerala have seafood and coconut-based dishes, while Tamil Nadu features rice and curry dishes.

3. Are there any specific sweets made for Christmas in India?

Yes, traditional sweets include Bebinca, plum cake, kalkals, rose cookies, and various coconut and jaggery sweets like adhirasam and kozhalappam. These sweets are often made at home and shared with friends and family.

4. How has globalization influenced Christmas food traditions in India?

Globalization has introduced fusion cuisine and modern festive meals in urban areas. Dishes like tandoori turkey, masala roast chicken, and Christmas biryani combine Indian and Western flavors, and Christmas brunches and buffets feature a mix of traditional and global dishes.

5. What is the significance of homemade treats during Indian Christmas celebrations?

Homemade treats symbolize love and sharing. Families spend time preparing traditional sweets and snacks to share with neighbors, friends, and family. Gift-giving often includes food gifts, spreading joy and festivity during the season.

6. How do Indian Christians celebrate Christmas differently from Western traditions?

Indian Christians blend Western traditions with local customs. While midnight mass and Christmas trees are common, the festive meals feature Indian dishes and sweets. Community feasts and the sense of sharing food with others are also central to Indian Christmas celebrations.

7. Can non-Christians participate in Indian Christmas celebrations?

Yes, Christmas in India is celebrated by people of all religions. Non-Christians often join in the festive spirit by attending community events, enjoying Christmas meals, and exchanging gifts with their Christian friends and neighbors.

8. What are some unique Christmas dishes from the Northeast region of India?

Unique dishes from the Northeast include pork with bamboo shoots and sticky rice with chicken. These dishes reflect the local ingredients and culinary traditions of the region, adding to the diversity of Indian Christmas cuisine.

9. How do Indian Christmas desserts differ from Western desserts?

Indian Christmas desserts often incorporate local ingredients like coconut, jaggery, and regional spices. While fruit cakes and plum cakes are common, Indian variations include additional flavors and textures, making them distinct from Western desserts.

10. What role does community play in Indian Christmas celebrations?

Community plays a vital role in Indian Christmas celebrations. Many communities organize feasts and events where people gather to share food and celebrate together. This sense of community and sharing is a fundamental aspect of the festive season in India.



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