“Not once had I seen an event this grandiose!”
After enjoying a small yet warm Christmas Eve dinner with the 2016 India Practicum team at the Well Cafe in Auroville, India. Three other classmates and I took a taxi to Pondicherry to attend the midnight mass, a Catholic tradition of my family. It was a delightful and extraordinary to be shared between the four of us in a foreign land without our family. We only had each other. No words can explain my experience at the Christmas Eve midnight mass at La Cathedral de Notre Dame de L’Immaculée Conception in Pondicherry, India.
Have you ever attended or drove by a church on Christmas, and the church building look like it will explode due to the capacity of people?
The taxi driver pulled up on Mission Street, but he could not enter the street as usual. The entire road was closed and reserved for pedestrians who go to church. Police and securities were guarding the area. The bright decorations vanquished the stars in the sky. The road filled with beautiful, vibrant dresses and sparkling jewelry. Everyone came to celebrate the holiday with a mirthful heart. People filled up seats on the benches inside the
cathedral and plastic stools outside in the cathedral’s yard. People were sitting on the floor, and it is not because the cathédrale is small. Despite that, the astonishment was not their clothes, their jewelry, their decoration, but their faith. Evidently, India is a nation dominated by Hinduism. Holding the second largest population in the world with the total of 1,241,492,000 people, 80% of Indian practices Hinduism, and only less than one percent of the population is Catholic. There are only 19,762,000 people are Catholic. In comparison to the 20% of Americans who are “Catholic,” how many go to church regularly to practice Catholicism. The old plastic statues outside of the churches in the U.S, an old painting of the nativity, and most importantly, the Christmas spirit in the U.S is incomparable to what I’ve discovered here, in India.
Have you ever had to make a decision between going to midnight mass or go to a house party? It is not an option here, but a plan. People had planned and prepared to go to midnight mass and no other options.
Is Christmas for us [in the West] all about the presents?
Are we actually celebrating the birth of Jesus? The Indian Catholic is certainly a “small but mighty” group. An eventful Christmas night in India complete with sitting on the ground with local women tentatively attends mass in Tamil and enjoy the cultural differences.