We’re a week into December, so I sincerely hope by now that my 24-strong guide on the best festive Indian restaurants has given you more to chew over than that daily tidbit of chocolate from the advent calendar. After all, Christmas is all about crunching and munching as you party as hearty as your heart desires.
And talking ‘desires’, what every wannabe des res really wants this season is some subcontinental style. So this year, I want you to brighten up your home with wonderful Desi decorations and trap the traditional ones in the loft. I think you’ll like this lovely little lot; not a little, an awful lot…
Ceiling-scraping trees and full-size Father Christmas figures are all well and good, but injecting a little more India into your Christmas embellishments makes excellent sense. I’ll be tossing out traditional tinsel in favour of gloriously gaudy garlands of faux flowers; dressing the angel atop the tree in a miniature sari; and lighting little diyas when darkness falls.
My home will also be ablaze with as many multi-hued, clashing, flashing fairylights as I can lay my hands on. I’d recommend you get your own on a selection of these specially festive items so you, too, can spend December in a wonderfully exotic wonderland. And please, go big, or go home. Trashy and flashy is the way to go – Christmas is no time for taste.
Created by the craftswomen of St Mary’s in Ahmedabad, this voluminous cotton wall hanging features all manner of flora and fauna and supports Fairtrade. If you don’t care for a Christmas tree, why not branch out with this colourful, crafty little number instead?
Whether you have a penchant for the plain clay versions or prefer the painted, glittered, thoroughly OTT specimens, Aargee offers an awe-inspiring range of diyas. Buy in bulk, scatter all over your gaff, and, to (mis)quote Ellie Goulding’s irritatingly catchy ‘Burn; ‘Light ‘em up, up, up so they can’t put ‘em out, out, out’.
Lali’s henna skills are legendary. Her ‘London skyline’ designs are fantastic fusions of East and West, and it doesn’t stop with body art. This lass also turns her pretty patterned hands to embellishing all manner of homewares in a similar manner. A collection of her candles is cracking for Chrimbo, especially if you reflect the effect with decorative mirrors, trinket boxes, photo frames and candle holders. For a festive focal point, hang one of Lali’s lovely henna paintings over the fireplace.
Momtaz Begum Hossain is the craftiest woman I know. And she doesn’t keep it close to her chest – she’s keen to inspire as many people as possible to discover the delight of DIY decorating. This is a book well-worth a look, packed full of projects inspired by the brash beauty of Bollywood – an industry which celebrated its centenary this year. Momtaz uses sari fabric, shisha mirrors and glitter to grand effect; employing that old Indian jugaad to help you bling up your home for the holidays.
No matter how much of your life is spent online, there’s nothing quite like a merry mantelpiece full of festive well-wishes which reach you via Royal Mail. Don’t miss the last post – veer away from virtual greetings and take a peep at Ananya’s beautifully bold Christmas cards. Company founder Vaishali Shah is a long-time supporter of charity Find Your Feet…another reason I implore you to place a sizeable order.
Anyone with a magpie eye will covet these bejewelled boxes that simply must bedeck every single surface come Christmas. Fill with dried fruits and nuts in their shells, or just admire your reflection in the tiny mirror fragments which pepper each of the ritzy, glitzy containers in the trio.
Zazzle offers a bountiful collection of bits and bobs with which to trim the tree. Weave the subcontinent through the branches with doodads variously decorated with iconic images of the Taj Mahal, maps of India, vibrant Hindu deities, and slogans like ‘Yes I love India that much‘ spelt out in the colours of the national flag.
Dina delivers yet again, with a range of cards the postman will be proud to pop through any letterbox. The ever-reliable Miss Thanki’s taken inspiration from a bunch of jolly jingles for her festive collection, each card combining her trademark text with a pretty little picture. Whether the recipient is rocking around the Christmas tree or merely having themselves a merry little Christmas, Dina’s designs will get their bells all a-jingle.
Invite some very special VIPs to spend Christmas with your clan. Rest assured, SRK and Aishwarya are well-mannered folks. They won’t ever won’t eat the last mince pie or cause an argument. If they complain of feeling a little ‘flat’, just lock ‘em in a cupboard. Because these Bollywood stars are neither living nor breathing; they’re simply full-size cardboard cutouts. These masks, meanwhile, let you and your mates moonlight as massive movie-stars.
Not particularly dainty or delicate, this sextet of subcontinental-style snack trays is nonetheless a quick’n’colourful way to add Indian influence to all your indulging. Inexpensive, fun, and – with all the nibbles knocking about at Christmas – very, very necessary. As a bonus, they’re made of tough plastic – fantastic when festivities get frantic.
Guests will be ‘craning’ their necks to get a better look at these pretty paper decorations, all a-dazzle with glitz and sparkle and available in a rainbow of custom colours. Display the fancy birds wherever takes yours; hang on the tree, sit them on a shelf, or – if you can bear to part with them – use as table favours.
Trim your table with this trio of serving bowls. The shiny silver steel linings mean they’re easy to clean, whilst the embellished, handpainted outers bring the bling. Buy as many as you need to hold your festive veggies – it’s only fair that each has a designated dish. And it’s more just that your purchase supports Fairtrade artisans.
Deck your halls like an Indian marigold seller’s stall with these pouffy tissue-paper pompoms which resemble those bright blooms quite brilliantly. The kit comprises three sizes, from small 9” specimens through to 18” monsters, along with hanging thread and full instructions to prevent assembly-induced apoplexy. The fruity’n’floral colours are fittingly festive: melon, cerise, plum, tangerine, marigold, turquoise and poppy.
Forget fashioning your own from colourful card or old offcuts; these hand-made Fairtrade flags are rendered from remnants from saris that the company’s craftspeople use to cover the notebooks and albums in the same range. Hang the strands wherever you see fit, preferably where there’s enough airflow to get them fluttering festively.
This website supplies all those little offbeat boutiques and emporia with the items you can turn up joyfully with a judicious rootle; ornaments like hand-made Indian glass baubles and bejewelled, glitter-doused animals sporting hand-painted details. Peruse at your pleasure, then use the handy store-finder to locate your nearest stockist.
These pointy paper lanterns are the ‘in thing’ wherever Christmas is celebrated in India. And justly so; they’re pretty eye-catching, particularly hung en masse. Rootsliving’s are available in three colours – piquant pink, purple, and yellow, and can be displayed alone or used as a shade for a low-watt bulb to light up Christmas even brighter.
The fireplace is often a festive focal point – and it’ll be a talking point, too, if you fix it up with this fine-lookin’ Fairtrade fireguard. Made by Noah’s Ark, a worker’s co-op in India, the detailed metal screen boasts a bountiful ‘tree of life’ design and a wonderfully warm hue – about as warm, in fact, as the feeling you’ll get from knowing the craftsmen are getting a good deal.
Now go and get you credit cards at the ready, ’cause you’ll want to get the gifts I’m sending your way next. And, in the meantime…
Crackers for Christmas? Check out these other bits from the blog:
- 24 restaurants where you’ll relish the food and the festive feeling
- An alternative Christmas feast with recipes from Cafe Spice Namaste, Namaaste Kitchen, Dishoom & Cinnamon Kitchen
- Last year’s Anglo-Indian Christmas guide
- Brilliant books for cooks
- How Kerala celebrates Christmas
Main image: Tregothnan Estate