How Do Hindus Celebrate Christmas?

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Christmas is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Hindus do not recognize Christmas as a religious tradition, but many do celebrate it, treating the holiday as a secular festival celebrating peace.

As recently as two decades ago, the Hindu population in America felt compelled to celebrate Christmas as a way to assimilate into American culture. Today, as a result of a growing Hindu population, not all Hindus continue to recognize the holiday. However, many Hindu families join in Christmas festivities, including parties and gift giving, so that children do not feel left out of the most-celebrated national holiday in the United States. Even in India, which has the largest population of Hindus in the world, Christmas is a national holiday and is celebrated as a festival by many Hindu families.

Hindus do celebrate a religious holiday in December called Pancha Ganapati, which is a five-day holiday that honors Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed lord of culture and new beginnings. The celebration begins on Dec. 21 and includes outings, picnics, feasts and gift giving.

Pancha Ganapati includes traditions that are similar to Christmas traditions. Families put up a statue of Ganesha and decorate their homes with pine boughs or durva grass, tinsel, blinking lights and ornaments. Children dress the statue in different-colored clothes for each day of the celebration. Each color, including yellow, blue, red, green and orange, represents a different aspect of the holiday.