Indian expats stick to tradition while celebrating Easter

Most are young and maintaining a little bit of tradition is their way of staying connected to their families and roots back home

Ivan D'souza, Copy Editor
16:05 March 30, 2018

Easter is almost upon us and Christians around the world are gearing up to celebrate the festival with great fanfare.

In India, though Christians form only about 2.5  per cent of the population, they celebrate the festival with a lot of enthusiasm while clinging on to traditions handed down generations. The Lenten period (40-plus days) before Easter is marked with great solemnity culminating with a grand celebration on Easter Sunday. While festivities are held across the country, it is more prominent across Goa, Mangalore, Mumbai, Kerala and the Northeastern states.

Unlike the West, Indians usually buy Easter Eggs and Easter bunnies from stores to gift friends and relatives.  In Goa and Mangalore, many households even bake their own cake (and eat a bit of it too) to exchange them as gifts with friends and families.

Though Indian expats in the UAE don’t tend to indulge in lavish festivities like back home (given the constraints of time and the fact that they don’t have many family members here), many still go the extra mile to maintain some age-old traditions like attending the Midnight Mass and preparing a grand feast of traditional dishes for their loved ones and friends. Most of the expats here are young and for them, maintaining a little bit of tradition is their way of staying connected to their parents, their families, their roots back home.

On the Eve of Easter, Gulf News spoke to some Indian expats here to find out how they plan to celebrate the festival, though they may be far away from home.

Vaneesha Noronha and Vikas Shetty
Goan-Mangaloren couple from Mumbai

No matter where you go, nothing compares to festivals like they are celebrated back home. But when you make another city your home, you bring the best of these traditions with you… and begin some of your own too.

As Catholic expats in Dubai, one such occasion is Easter.

Easter Sunday begins with us participating in the Midnight Mass at St. Mary’s Church. The festival for us is incomplete without an elaborate food fest (read meat fest) as a lot of us abstain from meat during the Lenten period.

Every year, I whip up some Easter Eggs and my husband and I enjoy decorating them with quirky designs as a family activity. I used to do this back home and it’s a tradition I have carried with me to the shores of Dubai.  Needless to say I have been designated the official ‘Easter Egg maker’ among my circle of friends.

As a Dubai tradition, for the last four years we and our crazy group gather at the same friend’s place every Easter for the potluck meal of the year! The traditional best from every kitchen - from mutton vindaloo to chicken xacuti, chicken cafreal to beef stew, fish cutlets to pulau – features on the table as we indulge in an evening of music and dance, fellowship and fun.

And though we do all miss our families and friends from back home, we must say our Dubai clan sure does fill the void splendidly.

Amelia Braganza, Amber and Nigel
Family hailing from Goa

Though I have been a Dubai expat for the last three decades and my children were born and brought up here, we have managed to maintain the sanctity and tradition with which we celebrated the festival in my home town in Goa

The first thing for me and my children (Amber and Nigel) is the morning mass on Easter Sunday. Since we are long-time residents here we tend to see a lot of familiar faces in church and greeting them becomes a moment for us to reconnect with old friends.

After that we usually make calls to wish our relatives back home in Goa who would be preparing for the priest to come and bless our house (As a tradition, the priest visits and blesses each house in our hometown during Easter).

In Dubai, we celebrate the festival with our family and friends. Usually we all gather together at my daughter’s place where we have a potluck feast with each family bringing a traditional dish for the grand Easter lunch. We have a variety of delicacies including chicken, beef, mutton, shrimps, pulao, pooris (Indian deep fried bread), with pudding, cake and Easter Eggs for dessert. As most of our friends abstain from meat and festivities during lent, Easter is a time we all really let our hair down

We exchange gifts, play games, sing the karaoke- basically have a ball.

This is how with music and dancing, warm conversations, stories, lots of laughter, and some awesome food cooked lovingly by our family and friends, we ring in Easter festivities here, though we may be thousands of miles away from our families and friends back home.

Chrisan Fernanades & Floyd Fernandes
Goan couple from Mumbai

For us expats, there’s never a moment when home or family isn’t missed. And festivals always remind us of ‘home’. However, when you are far away making a life in a distant land, it is your friends who become family and that for me is one the most beautiful things about such celebrations.

For me and my husband, Easter is all about going to church (usually Midnight Mass), followed by the mandatory call back home to exchange greetings with our loved ones, before heading to a friend’s place for a big fat Easter feast.

For many among us who had turned “pure veg” during lent, first preference is given “to break the fast” and attack all the delicacies (usually meat-based) at the dinner table. 

My contribution to the Easter feast is usually a dish or two and the dessert - usually Marzipan Easter Eggs made by me (using my Mum’s traditional recipe) and Easter Hats and Bunnies!

The Easter Egg is considered as a symbol of new life, and back home Easter is never complete for our family without the distribution of Easter Eggs to children in the neighbourhood and among relatives!

This year, apart from distributing Easter Eggs to friends in the UAE, we also plan to send some back home to wish our family an Eggstravagant Easter!

Desiree Francis and Ishan Modi
Pakistan-India couple

In Karachi, Pakistan, we usually went for Midnight Mass and after coming home, we would have colourfully decorated Easter Eggs and cake. I remember handing out candy-filled Marzipan Easter Eggs to my nephews and friends. I’ve been in Dubai for three years now with my husband and I try to get some element of those colourful Easter Eggs into my home every year, whether in the form of décor or food or just about anything.

I cannot imagine Easter without colour!

Her husband Ishan says: Easter has always been a quiet affair for me. From hanging out with friends in Mumbai and having traditional food, to understanding the real meaning of Easter, I try to remain truthful to the reason of the season.

Easter in Dubai for us means bonding over dinner with friends like family, having some great Biryani and of course distributing Easter Eggs among our friends and their children. 

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Ivan D'souza