Missing Christmas

When I told my friends and colleagues in Atlanta that I would be visiting India until December 28th, the reaction I received was almost unanimous:  “You’re going to miss Christmas?!” they would say in a tone that sounded as shocked as it did sympathetic.  “I’m so sorry,” they would continue, or, “That’s too bad.”  I heard this over and over again from everyone from people at church to the lady at the airport ticket counter when I checked in for my flight.

Santa doesn't always ride a "One Horse Open Sleigh"... sometimes a camel or an elephant will do!

I’m sure these people meant well, and I tried to appreciate the concern they expressed.  But after a point it got old and annoying.  “I’m not missing Christmas,” I would attempt to explain; “I’m just celebrating it in another country.”  Somehow no one seemed convinced.  The responses even caused me to question whether some people had actually read all of Luke chapter 2.  Remember the part about the angel proclaiming, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for ALL THE PEOPLE” (Luke 2:10)?  I was pretty sure that “all the people” included people in India.

You see, I intentionally planned my trip this way so I could experience the Christmas season in a different culture and observe how both believers and unbelievers in India approach the Advent.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I’ve been in India for over a month now and I’m happy to report that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas all over this country… from the rural villages and remote slums of East India to the posh hotels and shopping markets in the North.  Yes, the spirit of Christmas is alive and well here, and it has been phenomenal to participate in many different celebrations with a vast array of people.

My highlights so far include:

Nativity in the Slum (New Delhi, Delhi)

Watching children in the Khadar slum act out the Nativity Story… it was one of the most beautiful and touching things I have ever witnessed. These children’s parents are called “rag-pickers,” as they go through trash and try to salvage what they can in order to survive. Seeing the joy on these kids’ faces as they talked about Jesus is something I will never forget.  I’ve now seen the Christmas story acted out numerous times over here in different settings, and each time I am reminded of the Gospel’s universal scope!

Candlelight in the Field (Ranchi, Jharkhand)

Gathering with thousands of believers on an open field one night in rural Ranchi for Jharkhand’s “Christmas Carol Competition and Candlelight Service”… words could not describe my amazement!  I was moved to tears as I saw people — young and old, rich and poor, from dozens of villages far and near — celebrating the birth of our Savior.  They are passionate and devoted to lifting up Jesus’ name in all circumstances, and I was both challenged and blessed.  Believers here do so much with so little; we in the States often do so little with so much!

Giant Gingerbread House (New Delhi)

My cousin Rashmi and I helped build a 9-foot tall Gingerbread House at the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel in the middle of New Delhi… we worked with some all-star chefs from Europe, and ate way too much of the gingerbread and icing in the process! There are also tons of Christmas trees popping up all over the place and lots of lights everywhere… I haven’t found any candy canes yet, but I’m still looking! There is plenty of fruitcake, though.

Remembering Rudolph (Jhalda, West Bengal)

I would like to confirm that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has in fact gone down in history. In the rural village where my mom was born, I hung out with a bunch of school children who could barely speak English, but they could sing “Rudolph” almost perfectly!  It’s fun to see the American traditions that have made their way over here in even the most remote parts of the country.

Outsourced Santa with an Indian Accent (Gurgaon, Haryana)

A church in Gurgaon (a.k.a. the “Call Center Capital of the World”) organized a big Christmas outreach event for the community last weekend, complete with Santa Clause and all!  This guy wasn’t quite as sophisticated as the Santas in Atlanta’s shopping malls, but his “Ho-Ho-Ho” was pretty good!

Shopping Galore (All Over)

Who needs Black Friday when you have JanPath Market?  The Christmas decorations and handicrafts here are exquisite, and I’ve come across some pretty unique items on my Christmas shopping sprees.  My favorite things to purchase are these paper mache ornaments from the Kashmir region, which were hand-painted by Islamic artisans… and going to their shops enables me to share with them the true meaning of Christmas!

Meeting Up with Missionaries and Ministers (All Over)

It has been a joy to connect with many missionaries and Christian workers doing ministry here, most of whom I cannot mention by name because of the restricted nature of their work in environments that are often hostile to the Gospel. Christmas provides powerful opportunities for them to be a light in a dark place, as an estimated less than 2% of India’s population is Christian. I met with a Christian attorney this week who helps defend persecuted believers across India, and I teared up as she told me one story after another of those who have suffered for their faith.  “I am inspired by people like the family in Orissa [in South India] whose neighbor wants to hack them to death, yet they still put out a star at Christmas,” she said. I was blown away.

These are a just a few snapshots of Christmas from across the miles… I want everyone to know that people all over the world are observing Advent and preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birthday!  I have always enjoyed the Christmas season in the States, and I’m sure there is nothing quite like the Macy’s Christmas tree in Herald Square or being home for the holidays with a cup of hot chocolate and warm cookies with my family. But I’m thrilled to be in India during this season, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

This Christmas, remember to pray for the celebrations taking place in foreign countries, especially as many believers are under attack. Encourage your children to develop a global worldview, even as you embrace your own traditions.  Above all, give thanks that Christmas is truly an international holiday celebrating GOOD news of GREAT joy for ALL people: the Savior of the WORLD who came to earth to die on a cross for all mankind and offer us the gift of eternal life.  Please, don’t miss Christmas.

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  • rhonda hagood

    it is funny how others tend to not know that Christmas is world wide….. there are believers everywhere…and even if you ar not a believer Christmas(santa) is know by many names……..I have never quite understood that… I am so glad you were able to do this

  • Brenda Wilson

    Ruth, thank you for sharing your many experiences of Christmas in India. I was truly blessed just hearing how our Christian brothers and sisters in that part of the world celebrate the birth of Our Savior. And I am so glad that you have been able to be there. These are memories you will cherish all of your life. I look forward to hearing more. Merry Christmas!

  • L. Stanley

    We also spent a little of Christmas in India this year and it was sweet! Christmas music in stores and resturants, a Christmas balloon for my child at a dress shop, nativity scenes and Christmas decorations as well. I’m glad your not missing Christmas this year but having a grand time celebrating it with believers on that side of the world!

  • http://www.SouthAsiaRocks.blogspot.com Andrea

    Awesome post!! Great pictures (and prospective) :) Fun :)

  • http://nopartyline.blogspot.com Brian Meadows

    What a sublimely inspiring true story.

  • Adrienne Susong

    What a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing the love of Christ with the non-believers.

  • Adrienne Susong

    Thank you for sharing the love of Christ at Christmas.

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    My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was entirely right. This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!


    Ruth, what a joy to read your email from India with all the pictures and notes from the different areas you are visiting. It is uplifting to hear about the ways they celebrate Christmas. Great is our Lord, may He be praised today and forever. Can’t wait to hear more about your visit.

  • Portia

    Truly inspiring to see the Gospel In action from other areas of the world…I had to work all weekend—12 hour shifts…and was missed being with my family…after reading your message…I was lifted and inspired…God Bless you continually in giving Him your best as you receive and share Him with so many others…you are truly a light…

  • Lucy Tucker

    How fascinating Ruth!!! I am so glad that you had such a fulfilling experience!

  • Noreen Grills

    MERRY CHRISTMAS !! Ruth, thank you so much for this. It did my heart much good! you are so right in saying “people there do sooo much with so little” & we do “so little with so much” this so touched my heart and as I read I cried and cried. I have lived in those countries and know too well the material poverty of those people but the richness of their hearts. You are truly correct that you have experienced the real meaning and richness of this advent in India. It is wonderful that God is using you to open the eyes and touch the hearts of your generation, your friends and all those who felt you were “missing Chritsmas” what a stark reality that we are not in touch with! May God help us! May the Lord protect you and continue to use you in more wonderful ways that we cannot even imagine. Look forward to your return and report. blessings!

  • Selam Seyoum

    God bless you Ruth! Wonderful articles. Thanks for sharing your experience. I cannot agree more with “Encourage your children to develop a global worldview, even as you embrace your own traditions.” Specially a person like me who is born somewhere outside of US, often experience similar interactions/receive such perception from people over here. Continue to enjoy the rest of your time in India. And later have a safe and pleasant trip back.

  • Debbie King

    Ruth thank you for sharing this is precious and amazing. It is so wonderful to see the message of our Saviour being shared and reaching the world. This really touched and warm my heart. Thank for sharing Christmas in India.

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