Christmas or Burra Din is truly a big day in Kolkata. The festivities begin with the first hint of winter in late November. Stalls selling Christmas decorations spring up like mushrooms all around Kolkata especially in the famous New Market area. What a treat it is to the eye and heart to see Christmas trees, Santas, trinkets, tinsels, reindeer, bells, holly leaves, candles, twinkling lights in the stalls. People whatever be their faith make a beeline for these decorations.
There is a cheer in the air and it only intensifies with the chill setting into the city. Park Street, Bow Barracks and nearly the entire city gets decked up to welcome the Yuletide. Twinkling lights transform the city into an enchanting fairyland. Music and laughter peals complete the picture. The entire city joins the Anglo-Indian Community of Kolkata in ushering in the happy season.
Cakes and chocolates are an intrinsic part of Christmas celebrations. Bakers get to work months ahead of the season as the demand is very high during this month. Iconic patisseries like Flurys or bakeries like Nahoums’ have record sales every year. Most renowned bakeries remain open for 24 hours to cope with the maddening rush. Queues in front of popular bakeries are seen and some even ration it to two cakes per head.
One name has got to be mentioned in the cake context of Christmas celebrations in Kolkata – Barua Bakery. This bakery was responsible for bringing Christmas cake to every common man’s home during the season. At one time their Christmas cake weighing 450 grams would cost four annas! Now there is many a bakery in Kolkata serving fancy cakes but Barua Bakery continues to bake cakes for the common man at an unbelievable low cost.
Also popular are bakeries with traditional ovens especially in the Park Circus area of Kolkata. The concept is to make your own cake and get it baked at the bakers’ oven. Many families have their own special recipes for Christmas cakes that have been carefully handed down through generations.
If there is a name that is popular with Kolkata as far as traditional cakes are concerned it is the 80 year old Saldanha Bakery and Confectionery. Their cakes are as good as “home-made” said a patron for years.
Thousands of people who gather at St Paul’s Cathedral Church (IndianExpress)
Gifting or exchanging gifts is a very important part of this festive season. Not just for family and friends many make a special effort to gift the underprivileged and the poor. Cakes and chocolates are exchanged along with gifts wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper. Greeting cards though now facing stiff competition from digital medium have a home run during this season.
Carol singing and midnight mass is attended by Christians and people of other faith alike.
Christmas trees are put up at most homes and decorated with lot of care and cheer. Gifts are packed and kept under the tree. Santa Claus is a figure that young and old believe in and is a part of everyone’s childhood that is never given up even with the years adding up.
West Bengal government for the last two year has taken great initiative to give a formal shape to the Christmas celebrations that happen all around the city. The government along with a host of institutions and corporate organize a yearly Christmas gala on Park Street during the Christmas season. Entire Park Street is decked up with lights and wears a carnival look. Live performance by bands, singers and artists are organized. Fun activities for children are a huge hit and add to the festive mood. The lighting of the Christmas tree is a big attraction for the young and old. Singing of Christmas carols and hymns are also a part of the Christmas celebrations on Park Street. This year too festivities have been planned by the government on a much larger scale.
Restaurants across the city are chock-a-block full as people love to enjoy a meal with their friends and family during this season. The clubs in the city have month long festivities planned for their members and guests.
The chill, cheer, charity, carols, church bells, cakes, chocolates and Christmas is what every Bengali looks forward to as December steps in.
If there is one regret, it is just that the good times fly away too soon on the wings of the angels that descend on Kolkata every Christmas season.
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas
May your heart be light
In a year our troubles will be out of sight
From now on”
Merry Christmas from Team M3.tv.