While walking about in Connaught Place, we chanced upon a rather underweight Santa Claus. But there were more along the inner circle. Sitting and conferring. Yesterday, while munching on plum cake, I was briefly reminded of what a confusing mish mash of rituals surround Christmas in Indian cities. Where Merry in the Merry Christmas becomes Meri and we say
Meri Christmas! Oye, Teri Bhi Christmas. .
The Delhi tradition has it that Santa Claus comes over the mountains from Tibet, and not Iceland. So for local Catholic families his address is not Santa Claus, Main Post Office 96930, Arctic Circle, Finland, but the outskirts of Lhasa. The animal he travelled on therefore, was the yak and not the reindeer. There is historical evidence to suggest that Christmas was observed (not celebrated) secretly in Tibet in the 16th Century.
In 1581, when the first Jesuit missionaries were at Agra and Lahore, it was decided to send a mission across the Himalayas to establish contact with the Christians there. Father Monserrate, when he was with Akbar in Punjab, obtained some interesting particulars regarding the Tibetans (presumably of that group which in the early years after Christ had accepted Christianity).
The accounts furnished by the mission thrilled Delhi and Agra and a year later the Armenians celebrated Christmas in Rewari and at Sarai Rohilla, where they built a church. The Jesuits also built a church in Delhi and so Xmas in Delhi dates back to 1626 – during Jahangir’s last years.