Asia Minute: India’s Hotspot for Christmas

Dec 25, 2017

Baga Beach. Goa, India
Credit Wikimedia Commons

On this Christmas Day, there are many places around the Asia Pacific that celebrate the holiday. While the region is a diverse mix of religions from Buddhism and Hinduism to Islam and other faiths, celebrations of Christmas often followed colonial settlements—including one particular location in India. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

You may be familiar with Christmas celebrations from Australia and New Zealand across the Pacific to places such as the Philippines. Singapore puts on a good show this time of year with holiday lights and decorations.

But there’s a corner of the west coast of India that is South Asia’s capital of Christmas—in a tradition that traces its roots to the 1500’s. That’s when the Portuguese arrived in Goa. First attacking the port, and then establishing colonies and building churches.

Goa is India’s smallest state. But its coastal location means it’s played a key role in ocean trade for centuries. It was also a Portuguese enclave even past the date of Indian independence—Portugal did not surrender its territory until 1961.

By later in the decade, the beaches of Goa had become a hit with Western tourists—especially around Christmas time. A popular stop on what was called the “hippie trail.”

These days, Goa still retains its beach vibe, but there are some relatively new tourist additions, including travelers not only escaping the cold of Western Europe, but also another component of growing visitors—coming from Russia.

That stretches the season a bit—not just today, but reaching until the Russian Christmas—in early January.