“It’s the most beautiful time of the year, lights fill the streets spreading so much cheer … I should be making a list, I know … but I’ma be under the mistletoe” not that I am a Bieber fan but I couldn’t find a song more apt to give a glimpse of the Christmas feeling.
I am frequently asked why I am always over-enthusiastic when Christmas approaches and I can almost never give the perfect answer.
Well, the overwhelming, unexplainable feeling is not only about the festival but about the whole season and surroundings that just lighten up our mood in general.
How can one be grim when our city of joy is decked up like a doll to enhance the festivity?
With the intoxicating aroma of brewing wines and baking cakes, memorable times with loved ones and the Christmas excitement, the city is at its alluring best.
If you don’t know what I am talking about then you owe a visit to at least two places in Kolkata that are abuzz with life during this season: Park street: that holds the true essence of ‘Christmas feeling’ with its decor, music, food and carnival set up, with smiling faces, happy voices and satisfied tummies of joyous people.
The grand-daddy of Christmas celebrations in Kolkata though is at another place altogether. We’re talking about the Bow Fest at Bow Barracks. For those of you who are not familiar with this place, you need to attend the Bow Fest 2016 to know what we’re talking about.
Bow Barracks is a locality in the central Kolkata region— just behind the Bowbazar police station, off Central Avenue. The easiest way to get to Bow Barracks is to catch a Metro. Central Avenue and Chandni Chowk are two metro stations that would get you within a 2 minutes walking distance radius from Bow Barracks.
Here, you will find a small hub of mostly Anglo-Indian population who have lived here for generations. The striking red buildings of bow barracks are home to more than a hundred families. This place usually wears a silent look through most part of the year but comes to life during the Christmas season with the Bow Fest being organized and run successfully since ages.
At a time when families are getting smaller, the Bow Barracks present a picture of unity in diversity. The warmth of the people and the cordial bonding among them makes even a dull day seem special. Everyone knows everyone here; it’s like a big happy family. Every evening, residents congregate at the small grotto for prayers after which they sit on the stairs of any of these buildings (better known as blocks), and have a gala time chatting and having fun.
The narrow lanes of bow barracks become the center stage of action before Christmas and continue till New Year. The week-long celebrations take place on the stretch between the rows of buildings.
This place bustles with activity as children and the aged revel in festivities, which start well ahead of Christmas.
There are posters on walls listing programmes lined up from December 23rd to 31st : Sing and dance with the best singers and crooners (no entry fee, some Politicians, and celebrities also come for this event), Santa comes to Barracks, Christmas Ball, Senior Citizen’s Day, two days of floodlight soccer tournament and finally the year end dance at SFX church hall.
“The Christmas tree celebration that is purely for children from the age group of 2-12yrs sees about 500 underprivileged children along with the local kids. We arrange for a few games, pony rides for them, give them gifts, food packets, and Santa comes in a rickshaw, something unique only to bow barracks. Santa then throws gifts to the children after which, he even dances with them. Senior citizens day has bingo, musical chairs, dancing, etc. The year-end dance, starts at 9:30 pm and lasts till morning 6:00 am after which people head to the famous Tiretti bazaar/china town for breakfast.” – said Felix Augustine, Secretary of the Bow United Organization.
“We of course depend on a lot of donation that is given by many people including earlier residents of bow street who have now shifted abroad, but this year with the money crunch, it is becoming a little difficult to manage all this yet our hopes and spirits are always high and though there is less money in hand, we know how to enjoy and we will not ruin our festival.”
There is complete bonhomie, the young and the old dance together throughout the night. Such is the bonding that bow barracks residents who have shifted abroad, return to the city around this time to be a part of the annual festivities because, Bow Barracks is where the heart is.
There is something for everyone in the celebrations at Bow Barracks, there is sinfully alluring culinary delights, and even the less privileged children of the vicinity participate in the festivities and have a gala time. Christmas celebrations here are matchless.
“Christmas is a time of sharing and caring and we are happy that the present ruling party in Kolkata is doing things to make Christmas a big and happy festival” – said Felix.
The best part is that it is not only Christians celebrating Christmas in Kolkata; countless people from various other religious sects spend these final days of the year together, happily. Bow Barracks is a visual treat at this time of the year. If it is Christmas then you have to be in bow barracks to enjoy the true spirit of the festival. People of all caste and creed come here. There is no age limit. You will find children as well as elderly people having a gala time together.
The 23rd night musical evening footfall is huge, seeing is believing, so we will not quote numbers instead would urge you to go have a look and enjoy yourself instead.
Bow fest is where you need to be!