Around the world, there are a plethora of food traditions that are followed on Christmas. Be it the seven fishes of Italy or a Bûche de Noël of France, the festive feast is laden with everything from cakes to pies, tarts and meaty delights. While some treats are relished because of the age-old traditions, some others like the Three Kings cake from Mexico have a special spiritual meaning attached to it. For instance, this cake, also known as the Twelfth Night cake has a hidden Jesus inside and whoever finds it is declared as the godparent for Jesus. 

Similarly, several other such tasty traditions are followed across the globe with a significant belief. In India, with a diverse population, we’ve got a large number of Christians residing in the country. Mostly found in Goa and South Indian states like Kerala, they’ve got their own specialties for Christmas. In fact, the celebrations are not just limited to them. Kolkata is a major hub for the Xmas day festivities, with a plethora of old yet renowned bakeries selling fruity cakes in the metro city.

Fortunately, I had the chance of experiencing it first-hand on my trip to the City of Joy during Christmas in the year 2019. The famous Park Street was lit with festive decorations and bright-coloured strings of lights. The street was packed with an enthusiastic crowd and we had to dodge the long queues to get to the cash counter for Flurry’s, an iconic bakery in Kolkata. 

After the pandemic struck our lives, we weren’t able to step out much in the past two years. Last year, the scare was such that I couldn’t think of going out but my heart yearned for a Christmas feast. That’s when I prepared a festive spread for the special day. The table was filled all things tasty, from butter croissants to square sandwiches, muffins, cheese, waffles at the center of which was the highlight, plum cake. This was my humble endeavour to relish an English breakfast at home on Christmas morning. 

While that was my take on the festive food, there are various ways in which it is celebrated in different parts of the country. To begin with, Goa is home to a huge Catholic community that has an extensive Christmas celebration that goes on for days. In the days preceding the festival, kuswar is laid out and sent to friends and family. Kuswar is a tray that is filled with different sweet and savoury bites (almost 22 of them) and taken to the houses of loved ones where the tray is emptied. The same tray is then sent back with food items from that particular household. 

The Portuguese influence on the Goan culture is no stranger to us. Be it the pao or the vindaloo, everything has the colonizers' touch to it. The special Christmas treats from Goa in the form of kuswar take inspiration from the Portuguese consoada. While consoada is limited to sweets, the kuswar has everything from sweet to savoury, baked to fried and steamed. 

Bebinca is one such sweet meat that is quite popular in Goa. The multi-layered cake takes a lot of time and practice to be aced. Each layer is done separately to give you an eggetarian baked dessert. Apart from this you’ve got several traditional sweets made from semolina and rice flour. A fudgy and sweet treat is the coconut and cardamom-flavoured Doce de grão. This one is made from chana dal and can be prepared days in advance because it doesn’t go bad after proper storage. 

Other sweet bites on the kuswar are dodols and kulkuls. While the former is a quick three-ingredient sweet fix made with the goodness of coconut milk and coconut jaggery, it is the latter that is deep-fried and gives a delish sugary crunch. These golden-brown crisps are made with semolina and maida along with egg and ghee, adding to the richness of the batter. 

Moving from Goa to the Eastern side of the country, you’ll find a duck moilee specialty cooked with a special bottle masala that is unqiue to the community. From roasted beef to pork, plenty of meaty delights wait for you at the Anglo-Indian Christmas spread. Marzipan and other sweet meats also find their place on the platter during the festive season along with meaty pies. One significant tradition here is that of drinking a hot bowl of chicken soup after the midnight mass. Called pintyacha sop, this soup is quite soul-soothing and an ancient tradition, followed way before the Portuguese spread their influence. 

The North-East is not far behind in their celebrations. The meat-eating community will not disappoint you with their chicken curry, pork stews and other delicacies on the table. The kaukswe is a delicacy of Mizoram that is served with rice noodles that is quite different from smoked fish and pork-intense preparations. 

South India is another region of the Indian sub-continent that rejoices at the time of Christmas. Ishtews and appams rule the table for the festive feast. You’ll find kumbilappams to achappams, a variety of dumplings on the menu along with pork and duck-based meaty delicacies which are a reflection of the Goan vindaloo. The vegetable mix of thoran is also intrinsic to the spread as are the sweet bites like kulkuls and rose cookies which can be found in the Goan kuswar too. 

From traditional homemade sweets to creamy cakes and meaty bites, the Indian Christmas feast has something in store for all.