This article originally appeared on VICE France.
Pure blue skies, midnight mass in silk clothing, Jesus lookalikes and palm tree shorts worn with flip-flops: Christmas in Goa is quite a scene.
French photographer Brice Dossin has spent several Christmases in the Indian state, capturing what he describes as “a joyful mess, a parallel universe where it’s 35 degrees Celsius and there are people dressed as Santa everywhere”.
Dossin recalls coming across some English tourists while staying in Mumbai 12 years ago for a photography project. They invited him to join them in Goa whenever he felt the need to escape the Indian metropolis. Keen to discover what the famed hippie paradise of the 1960s and 70s looked like in the 21st century, Brice booked a ticket, and landed right in the middle of the Christmas period.
He was immediately struck by the mix of cultures in coexistence, and set himself the goal of returning for another Christmas in order to take more photos. He ended up going back in both 2018 and 2019.
After gaining independence in 1947, India (formerly a British colony) demanded Portugal return its colonies on Indian territory. One of these was Goa, which had been under Portuguese rule since 1510. After a military annexation in 1961, it was not until 1987 that Goa became an official Indian state.
After 450 years of Portuguese domination, Goa became a Mecca for 60s youth out to find themselves, with Pink Floyd as their soundtrack. By the 80s, it was ground zero for psychedelic trance music and its own eponymous genre of “Goa”, which is still huge in India.
Meanwhile, Goa itself remains a favourite pitstop for European tourists wanting to lose themselves at notorious Full Moon Parties, and an ex-pat haven for retired hippies and trance heads. True to form, Goans have even managed to keep the party alive during the pandemic.
A turbulent history combined with an exceptional climate make Goa an appealing melting pot of cultures which only becomes more vibrant come December, thanks to its large Christian population. Despite the often-cheeky vibe of his photos, Dossin maintains he never wants to make fun of his subjects, even if they are Santas in flip-flops.
You can see more of his series, “XMAS VINDALOO” in a recently-published book by Dewi Lewis, and below.