The Pancha Ganapati "Hindu Christmas" Ritual

Color of the day:  Ivory
Incense of the day:  Chrysanthemum
Color of the day: Ivory
Incense of the day: Chrysanthemum

Although in India non-Christians generally do not observe the Christmas holiday, many celebrate a modern Hindu festival called Pancha Ganapati, which is regarded as the "Hindu Christmas." Pancha Ganapati begins on December 21 and runs through to the 25. During this time, families and friends share a togetherness and exchange gifts. Pancha means "five-faced," and Ganapati is one of the names of Lord Ganesha in the aspect of "Lord of Categories." The Western traditional Christmas pudding is of course substituted with Indian variations, as are other common holiday snacks and foods. In observance of Pancha Ganapati, a home shrine is erected for five days in a family's living room. The shrine includes a statue of Lord Pancha Ganapati or a picture of Ganesha. Decorations include tinsel, flashing fairy lights, flowers, and other meaningful items. Offerings include modaka balls, Ganesha's favorite sweet, palm
sugar, milk, incense, ghee lamps, candy, flowers, fruit, Indian cakes, and home-made sweets. Each day, a traditional Hindu tray of offerings is prepared and offered by children to Pancha Ganapati. The kids are also given gifts on each of the five days. These are placed on the shrine and not opened until December 25. The statue of Pancha Ganapati is usually dressed by children in different colors of clothing during each day of the five-day festival. On December 21, the color is golden yellow, and royal blue is used on December 22. Ruby red is used on the third day. On December 24, he wears emerald green, and on Christmas Day, Pancha Ganapati is adorned in a brilliant orange robe. It is believed that he blesses all who pay homage at his shrine by bestowing 365 days of smooth transitions, success, abundance, prosperity, happiness, and health. Some families go on outings and picnics, and the generally engage in joyful activities. Instead of the usual Western musical fare-along the lines of "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," or "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," Hindus use Indian songs in praise of Lord Ganesha, as well as sacred hymms and relevant Sanskrit chants. It is probably no coincidence that while Santa Claus is carted around in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, Lord Ganapati's vehicle is called "Mushika," the mouse. Both "vehicles" have an uncanny knack for traversing in and out of tight corners, nooks, and crannies.
If bulky Santa Claus whooshes down a chimney laden with gifts, so can Lord Ganapati with his big belly bestow blessings in unlikely locations across the Indian subcontinent.
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