Merry Christmas: Top 10 Midnight Mass in India, You Cannot Miss
Christmas, in multicultural India, is celebrated with the same gusto as Diwali or Eid. Everyone is one big happy family with a Santa cap on every head and a smile on every face. The magic of Christmas isn’t only limited to parties, merrymaking and presents from Santa. It all starts with mass at midnight on Christmas-eve to commemorate the birth of Christ, before getting the party started. Midnight mass is a spectacle unto itself as it is steeped in rich tradition and full of melodious, soulful music, thanks to the Christmas carols that accompany or precede midnight mass. Let’s take a look at some of the best places to partake of this annual Christmas tradition in India.
1. Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, Shillong
The tiny mountain capital of Meghalaya, Shillong packs a punch during Christmas. With a significant Christian population, you can expect to see homes, offices, shops and streets decorated and lit beautifully. Midnight mass at the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians in Shillong, must be the highlight of your Christmas trip to Shillong. The beauty of the hills is stunningly accentuated by the melodious Christmas carols and hymns beautifully sung by the city’s many choirs. Shillong is, after all, India’s music capital. Angelic singing, friendly people and the clean, crisp mountain air; close your eyes and you might as well be in heaven.
2. Kolkata St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata – Christmas Destinations India
Colonial-era churches were built around acoustics. This was, the voice and singing could resonate within the structure, offering a listening experience. One of the best places to experience the sheer grandeur this old-world amplification is St. Paul’s Cathedral. With its stellar acoustics, the sheer magnanimity of the melodious carols and hymns sung by an excellent choir will give you goose bumps. You won’t be alone though; midnight mass at St. Paul’s is attended by thousands of Kolkatans, making it truly a sight to behold.
3. Basilica of Our Lady of The Mount, Mumbai
Midnight mass at this basilica in Mumbai is a star-studded affair, thanks to the myriad of Bollywood celebrities and famous personalities in attendance with hundreds of devotees. Located on a hill in the enclave of Bandra, it takes on a different life during Christmas thanks to its Catholic population. The drive to the basilica past rows and rows of decorated homes and buildings before reaching the church which overlooks the sea, is an apt precursor to the magic that happens at midnight when angelic singing brings in Christmas.
Built on the resting place of St. Thomas the Apostle, who brought Christianity to India, this church retains an old-world vibe. With the original structure built way back in 1593 and later redesigned in Neo-Gothic style, favoured by British architects in the late 19th century. This church is one of the only three known churches in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Jesus. Steeped in history and bathed in Christmas spirit, Christmas in Chennai has its own unique traditions and the festival is celebrated with typical Chennai attitude and swagger, but not before celebrating the birth of Jesus with piety and prayer first at midnight mass.
You can’t not utter the words Christmas and Goa in the same breath. The villages and towns in Goa take on a vibrant hue every Christmas, looking like little neon oases in the midst of paddy fields and coconut groves. Seeing how every village has a church, one cannot miss midnight mass even if they wanted to. From tiny chapels to magnificent basilicas, take your pick from a plethora of places to worship or just admire the singing and decorations. After mass, you’re sure to find parties plenty, which welcome everyone regardless of caste, creed or religion because on Christmas in Goa, no one’s a stranger.
A stately remnant of the British Raj, the Cathedral Church of The Redemption is where the British viceroy would attend Christmas mass. Step back in time as you step onto these hallowed grounds with a church that looks like it belongs in a colonial-era period drama. Located due east of Parliament and Rashtrapati Bhavan, the atmosphere here is sombre and dignified. This does not mean it lacks warmth however, complete stranger at the start of mass become friendly acquaintances by the end of the service as wishes are exchanged over warm coffee and cake.
7. Shepherds Memorial, Udaipur
Known primarily for its forts and palaces, another architectural marvel is Shepherd’s Memorial Church in Udaipur. Over 125 years old, Shepherds Memorial has stood still in time and is a remnant of Udaipur’s multicultural past. During Christmas, the church in Udaipur’s busy market is a bustle of activity leading up to midnight mass. Join the faithful as they bring in Christmas with the noble stone facade of the church fitting right in with Udaipur’s many forts. Here the Christmas lights don’t matter as you see the natural light of a million stars in the open dessert air.
The Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges or Church of Our Lady of the Angels is a throwback to Renaissance-era France, thanks to Pondicherry being a French colony. The interiors are opulent and reminiscent of a French court with gilded ceilings and gold painted pillars. Midnight mass here is a trip back in time. Being close to the sea in tropical Pondicherry means this Christmas is a pleasant kiss of tropical warmth as opposed to a stereotypical snowy embrace of Christmas. During Christmas, Pondicherry’s French past awakens. You can see it in the decorations that pop up all over Pondy and especially picturesque White Town, where the church is located. Another way to tell Christmas has come to Pondicherry is the smell of freshly baked cakes wafting from one of its many French-style bakeries and cafes.
9. Christchurch, Shimla
Home to the oldest pipe organ in the Indian subcontinent, built in 1899, Christchurch in Shimla is many things. A direct throwback to the Raj with cobblestone streets, charming quaint buildings and Christchurch at the centre of town. It could also be the inspiration for many Christmas cards, should snow decide to grace the occasion. Midnight mass in Shimla is a magical experience for anyone who decides to give it a shot. The possibility of sharing Christmas wishes and cheer beside a roaring bonfire after mass ends is also a possibility if you are lucky enough to attend a Christmas party at someone’s home.
10. Church of St John in the Wilderness, Dharamshala
Located in the midst of a deodar forest between Mcleodgunj and Forsyth Gunj, the Church of St John might as well be a tiny chapel in the Scottish Highlands or Scandinavian forest. If spending a quiet Christmas with a few people, in the midst of nature, far from the madding crowds is your idea, then this church in Dharamshala is for you. It’s splendid architecture and breathtaking location combine to make this the ideal spot for a Christmas wedding, so you be so inclined.
So, what are you waiting for, add a touch of spirituality and serenity to your year-end Christmas vacation and do something other than just party and revel. Give yourself the gift of travel this Christmas by booking a holiday package from Thomas Cook.