Growing up in a Christian family, for me, Christmas has always been the most anticipated time of the year. Even today, I wait anxiously for the rest of the 11 months just to enjoy the ‘Christmas feel’.
The scent in the air, the bustle on Park Street and the joy of celebrations with family.
It is this time of the year where you could get the tempting scent of cakes baking all day round, and as tradition has it, we distribute cakes and savouries to relatives, friends and the underprivileged, and I would feel immense pride when these people would tell me that our home made fruit cake is the best that they have ever had.
There is no denying that Kolkata takes on a different look as Christmas approaches. So, on that note, let us take a look at all the elements that make up Christmas in Kolkata!
This has to top the list!
Christmas without Christmas cake is like Puja without pandal hopping, biryani without aloo, Kolkata without Park Street, ok, so you get the point. Those mouth-watering fruit cakes, walnut cakes, plain cakes, and plum cakes during Christmas, aah what a feeling!
Food and wine
Christmas is the day for lip-smacking duck vindaloo, pea’s pullao, yellow rice, kofta malai curry, chicken/ turkey roast, salt meat, rose-cookies, kulkuls and the likes.
Normally, after morning mass, we wait to go wish everyone in their homes so that we can taste the various flavours of Christmas cake and have a sip or two of wine from those tiny glasses. Every meal of this day is grand in every way possible so you can decide to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner in different relative’s homes depending on the time you go to wish them.
How can any festival pass by without shopping? Clothes, shoes accessories to match with the tailor made clothes, etc are all part of the shopping spree that goes on till the very last minute.
They are the busiest and most sought-after people during this time of the year. You usually have to give your clothes for stitching much in advance for you to get it delivered on time. Christmas is for tailor made clothes because readymade clothes just don’t fit the bill!
Churches are at their prettiest best with decorations that could put the grandest marriage decorations to shame. It is a visual treat to see the spectacular avatar of the otherwise simple church. A special thing about churches during Christmas is that they have mid-night mass/service on Christmas Eve. This only happens twice a year. So, we wear all our fancy new clothes and walk to church at night, attend the service after which cake and coffee is given out to everyone and it is a joyous time with everyone wishing each other a Merry X’mas and happily chatting about their plans for the next few days. Another attraction is the beautifully decorated cribs where people gather to click pictures.
For those of you who are not familiar with what carol singing is, it is a group of (mostly) youngsters who come to your house and sing Christmas carols to bring in the festive happiness and lighten your day. It is fun to have them come and welcome them to your homes as you might know most of them from the parish.
Without carol singing, Christmas is incomplete.
Undoubtedly, this is the party season of the year. Everyone has a gala time irrespective of their age. Christmas parties held in the age old clubs like Dalhousie Institute, Rangers club, Grail Club, CC&FC and the likes, see a huge footfall of happy feet ready to feast, dance and have a merry time. Most people even throw house parties where they invite ‘Santa’ as the chief attraction.
Picnics and carnivals
The weather, the festive mood and everything about December calls for celebration. Picnics, carnivals and fests are at a rise at this time of the year. Our social self is at its best with the holidays coming in and relatives and friends beaming with positivity. All we need to do is throw our phones aside for a day and bring out the child in us. Have you seen the line outside the Alipore zoo? It’s maddening.
Decorations & Christmas tree
The streets are lit with magnificent light works, the markets are busy with shoppers and most people are seen buying decorations for Christmas trees and homes.
This fig tree comes to life during December. It is purchased in various sizes and qualities. Almost every house, has a Christmas tree in it. Which is kept alive till the end of the year and then packed neatly for re-use the following year.
Earlier, Santa’s Ho! Ho! Ho! Was more popular among children. Our generation would actually believe that Santa was real and there was a certain unexplainable joy in that. We would write a long list of things that we wanted and would post it on our bed or somewhere in our home and magically, the next day, we would get at least one item from that list, delivered by Santa. How I would wait to see this big fat red clothed man deliver my gift, but somehow I always fell asleep and missed his delivery time.
I truly believe that Park street is the heart of Kolkata and Christmas is the heartbeat of this place. During the month of December, this place comes to life with the beautiful decorations and the Christmas carnival. This place is a must visit during December-January especially with happy streets happening during winter mornings.
The best part of any celebration is to receive gifts from others. Seeing your name on a packed gift, placed under the Christmas tree, is a feeling of utter joy. Well, Christmas gift is often for children but aren’t we all kids at heart?
Christmas is a time of meeting up relatives and friends. A time of enjoying and letting your hair down. A time to fest and all this is not possible without good company.