Christmas In Northeast: Exploring Meaty Delights & Sweet Treats
Image Credit: North-East Indian Christmas places emphasis on pork-based dishes.

Bells, candies, and stockings hanging from the tender branches of the Christmas tree is an essential part of the décor and a reminder that the festival is nearing. Similarly, the aroma of freshly-baked plum cakes, pies, and puddings perfectly complements the holiday mood.  

The arrival of December and the commencement of the holiday season marks the beginning of meaty preparations in the northeastern region. Pork is one of the most commonly eaten meat in several places of the Northeast, and the men in the family are usually assigned the task of cleaning and cooking the meat. The locals begin the preparation of their feast days in advance. Vegetables and ingredients are collected before the actual cooking begins.  

Here’s a sneak peek into how each northeastern state celebrates Christmas and the specialties that are devoured on this day.  

1.   Nagaland  

Christmas for Nagas is a pretty big day. Among savouries, smoked pork with axone is the perfect treat on most festive occasions. The pork dish includes pig innards, trotters, and the head that are all cooked with axone. This meaty delight is paired with some sticky rice to enjoy a hearty meal after Christmas mass. Seasonal greens and chutneys are also a part of the feast, followed by a dessert, which is the classic Naga-style thin doughnuts cooked on wood-fire.  

2.   Meghalaya 

In Meghalaya, the community residing in the Khasi hills is known for their Christmas-special delicacies. Pork is definitely a part of the meal, cooked in two different ways. One is Doh Jem, which is a Khasi delicacy made with pork innards, and the other is Dohneiiong, which is pork cooked with a sesame seeds paste. The nutty and deep flavours of the latter make it an ideal festive treat. In addition to this, there’s pork stew, called Pura, and meat stew, called Kappa, that are prepared for lunch, along with mustard greens. Wrapped in local reru leaves, the food is packed and eaten out of them.  

3.  Tripura  

Although there is a specific dish from this state that is quintessential for Christmas, Mui Borok is the go-to Tripuri delicacy that is relished on special occasions like these. For the unversed, it is a dry, fermented local fish called Berma. The dish is considered very healthy as it is cooked without any oil and has a salty and spicy taste. The tiny fish curry is cooked perfectly and can be paired with rice.  

4.   Manipur  

Two festive specials from the Manipuri cuisine include a rich and hot fish curry and a smoked fish and vegetable mash. The former is called Nga Atoiba Thongba, which literally translates to a disintegrated fish curry. It is made by cooking seasonal veggies in a spicy gravy and then tossing unmarinated fish into it so that it acquires all the flavours. The latter is called Eromba, which is a delectable mashed mix of fermented fish and vegetables cooked together with local chillies. These dishes are popular for festive spreads among the Meitei community of Manipur.  

5.   Assam  

It’s difficult to precisely identify if there are delicacies specifically made for Christmas in most Assamese households. That said, several desserts and meaty dishes are prepared on festive occasions usually, including duck meat cooked with ash gourd as well as the sweet rice pudding. These are eaten during special occasions, as part of the feast.  

6.   Mizoram  

The Mizos indulge in community feasting after Christmas to celebrate the feeling of belongingness and togetherness. In this grand spread, one can find some relief from pork as Kaukswe, a Burmese-inspired chicken curry is accompanied by rice noodles. Other than that, Fatu (or the local chef appointed for preparing the feast by the church) also makes Sawhchiar, which is a kind of khichdi or congee that is filled with rice and meat like chicken, pork, or beef. Another pork-based delicacy made for Christmas is Vawkswa Chhum, which is a combination of pork and mustard leaves. Sweet meats like Chhangban (steamed rice cake) are also served at the end of the meal along with jaggery and tea.  

7.   Arunachal Pradesh  

Eaten during special occasions, not specifically Christmas, Chambai is a simple yet unique combination of chicken and rice that is prepared in Arunachal. Popular among the Mishmi tribe of the state, the dish is made with sticky rice that is locally grown in the region. Paired with a hearty chicken curry, the two are a delight to the taste buds.  

8.   Sikkim  

The locals here love to relish pork on special occasions and their Christmas-special meal is usually smoked pork cooked in brandy. The pork is cleaned and soaked in brandy overnight. After the pork acquires the flavour of brandy, it is smoked over wood fire for about a week, till it is fully cooked and dry. The smoky aroma and taste of the meat is what makes it so unique.