Interfaith Celebrations: Muslims Adorn Christmas

In the culturally diverse Kashmir Valley, where the Christian population is relatively small, the celebration of Christmas is a grand affair. The festive spirit transcends religious boundaries, enveloping the entire region in joy and merriment, and beyond the adorned churches and schools, the festive ambiance extends to the tourist areas near Dal Lake, where enchanting decorations create a captivating atmosphere that embraces the essence of Christmas. This blend of Kashmiri papier-mâché and Christmas celebrations in the Valley showcases the vibrant cultural fabric of the region. It highlights the harmonious coexistence of different religious and artistic traditions, where the joy and beauty of Christmas resonate with people from various backgrounds. 

Across India, papier-mâché ornaments are popularly crafted and used to adorn Christmas trees and homes during the holiday season. According to traders, Kashmiri papier mâché Christmas decorations are sought after and shipped to various destinations across the country and the globe, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Middle East. As a testament to their versatility and adaptability, Kashmir’s artisans create a wide variety of interesting designs in response to market demand. For instance, when preparing shipments for destinations such as Bahrain or Rajasthan, intricate artworks are crafted depicting Santa Claus riding a camel through a desert, carrying his sack of gifts. These unique designs encapsulate the cultural elements specific to each location, showcasing the artisans' ability to tailor their creations to suit different markets and regions. By incorporating Kashmiri motifs into their Christmas celebrations, local Christians not only embrace their cultural heritage but also create a unique fusion of traditions, blending the beauty of their traditional craft with the joyous spirit of Christmas. These handmade Christmas ornaments embody beauty and finesse that can only be achieved through the hands of skilled Kashmiri artists. 


BTS from our Kasmiri Papier Mache Masterclass

The celebration of Christmas in Kashmir not only demonstrates the spirit of unity but also beautifully intersects with the region's rich history of Christianity. According to legend, the Kashmiri Christian community was established by the Apostle St. Thomas, highlights the longstanding connection between Kashmir and Christianity. Amid the complex and tense religious dynamics that have characterized the region, the embrace of Christmas as a unifying force is particularly noteworthy. For instance, the small acts of celebration, such as wearing Santa hats and distributing sweets, go beyond mere symbols of merriment. Even recently in Srinagar, St. Luke's Church has been successfully restored and reopened, reclaiming its lost glory. The church, situated on the southwest slope of Shri Shankaracharya Hill, stands as a unique symbol of Jammu and Kashmir's composite culture. This reopening marks a significant milestone, allowing for celebration and the embrace of Christ's message of sacrifice, service, redemption, love, and compassion. 

Artisans from diverse religious backgrounds actively participate in a collective effort to preserve the art form, which has been passed down through their families for generations. Despite their different religious identities, these artisans share a profound passion for Kashmir Papier-mâché and a strong commitment to its safeguarding. They come together in workshops and collaborative spaces, creating a vibrant community where they exchange ideas, techniques, and stories and in this creative environment, religious and cultural differences fade away. Through their interactions and shared experiences, these artisans not only enhance their craft but also foster a profound sense of camaraderie and mutual respect and they recognize that their collective efforts are vital for the survival and continued evolution of Kashmir Papier Mâché, transcending religious boundaries and creating a legacy that goes beyond individual beliefs.


A Duo of Santas All Set to Embark!

The collective efforts take on even greater significance in the face of the challenges that the papier mâché craft in Kashmir currently faces. The art of papier mache, once a thriving trade that brought both renown and financial success to its practitioners, now stands on the brink of extinction.  The Covid-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the industry, resulting in the cancellation of numerous orders in recent years. This decline, coupled with production shortfalls and limited artisan availability, poses significant challenges, especially during peak seasons like Christmas when demand surges. The practicing artists of papier mache, who were once renowned and financially successful, are now struggling to make ends meet. 

The series of unfortunate events, including devastating floods, the abrogation of Article 370, internet blockades, and the Covid-19 pandemic, have dealt severe blows to the traders and artisans in the valley. According to acclaimed Papier-mâché artist Maqbool Jan, in the past, entire neighborhoods were filled with artisans dedicated to this craft. However, the number of artisans associated with the artform has significantly dwindled, with less than 3000 artisans remaining today. The consecutive lockdowns have resulted in a significant estimated loss leaving many artists in dire financial situations and forcing them to close their workshops and seek alternative employment. However, it is important to acknowledge that the decline of papier mache as an art form cannot be solely attributed to the recent lockdowns. The insurgency that emerged in the 1990s in Kashmir has also significantly impacted local traders, leading to reduced artistic enrollment and a decline in employment opportunities due to the persisting unrest. The World Bank's grant of 2.18 crore rupees following the devastating Kashmir floods provided some relief, but many artists express their disappointment with the government's support for the handicraft industry and its uncertain future. The artisans of papier mache in Kashmir have not only contributed to the artistic heritage and cultural traditions of the region but have also provided livelihoods for countless households. The declining state of papier-mache is not only a loss for Kashmir but also the wider world, as it represents an important part of cultural and artistic heritage. To reverse this trend, immediate attention and support from the government, researchers, and the community are necessary. By providing better assistance, creating a favorable environment, and embracing e-commerce opportunities, the artisans of papier-mache can have a chance to revive their craft, ensuring the preservation of Kashmir's cultural legacy while also generating sustainable livelihoods for the artisans. In the face of current events and amidst the backdrop of challenging circumstances, the celebration of Christmas in Kashmir assumes even greater importance. It serves as a beacon of hope, bringing solace and cheer to the hearts of the common people. The grand decorations in tourist areas near Dal Lake reflect the determination of the local community to maintain a sense of normalcy and festive spirit, despite the trials they may face. Moreover, the artists themselves are the unsung heroes, using their skills to breathe life into the cherished tradition of Kashmir Papier-mâché. Their dedication and craftsmanship bring joy not only to the locals but also to visitors who are captivated by the art form's beauty. These artists, through their work, play an essential role in preserving cultural heritage and uplifting the spirits of the community.


Selecting Gems from a Cluster of Baubles


Therefore, it's time to take action and support the artisans who create these exquisite pieces. You can start by seeking out Kashmir Papier Mache products and purchasing them for your home or as gifts for your loved ones. These products range from small decorative items like Christmas ornaments to larger pieces like vases and trays, all adorned with the intricate designs that make Kashmir Papier-mâché so special. Furthermore, you can spread awareness about the beauty and significance of this craft by sharing your knowledge with others. By promoting Kashmir Papier-mâché, you can help to raise the profile of the artisans who create these products and encourage more people to support this valuable cultural heritage. Kashmir Papier-mâché is not just an art form, but a part of the cultural heritage of the Kashmir region. By supporting this craft, you are contributing to the preservation of a tradition that has stood the test of time and providing livelihoods for the artisans who continue to create these beautiful pieces. So why not add a touch of Kashmiri elegance to your home this Christmas season and play a part in preserving this wonderful tradition for future generations?


  1. AuthIndia. (2022, December 23). Kashmiri papier-mache artisans are upbeat as Christmas bells ring. AuthIndia. Retrieved from
  2. Daily Sabah. (2022, January 21). Kashmiri papier-mache: Its story, how it's crafted and more. Daily Sabah. Retrieved from
  3. Greater Kashmir. (2022, December 25). Local Muslims join Christmas celebrations in J&K's Srinagar. Greater Kashmir. Retrieved from
  4. Hindustan Times. (2022, December 24). Kashmiri artisans who produce unique Christmas decorations stare at oblivion. Hindustan Times. Retrieved from
  5. Hindustan Times. (2022, December 23). Christmas bells ring in for Kashmiri papier-mache artisans as they receive orders in bulk. Hindustan Times. Retrieved from
  6. Ahead of Christmas, Kashmir papier-mache artisans receive orders in bulk. Kashmir Observer. Retrieved from
  7. Republic World. (2021, September 22). J&K admin sets up facilitation centre for papier-mache artisans to boost handicraft sector. Republic World. Retrieved from
  8. The Guardian. (2021, October 6). 'We want dignity': The vanishing craft of Kashmir's papier-mache artists. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  9. WION. (2022, December 25). Kashmir gets decorated for Christmas as Papier-mâché artists receive thousands of orders. WION. Retrieved fromâché-artists-receive-thousands-of-orders-546070



Leave a comment