Christmas in Kolkata is definitely not a snowy Christmas and is different from that seen in West or the Orient. Yet, it has its own sweet charm, I keep waiting for. Christmas in Kolkata means holiday; friends and family; party, music and food; and gifts, music, lights and décor. However, Christmas is symbolic of generosity and prayers.
Christmas Tree and Shopping for its Décor:
The availability of a real tree is not possible here in Kolkata. So we buy artificial replicas and decorate with Christmassy elements. Bells, tinsel garlands, snowmen, stars, snowflakes, old family photos, cranberries, pinecones and numerous other ornaments and fairy lights are essential elements for decoration. Décor elements like Christmas wreaths, socks, putz houses, and Santa Claus statue on a carriage drawn by reindeers are must. From my childhood, I have enjoyed shopping these. Buying these from old stores in New Market and Entaly Street Market is customary. When I was in school, with the help of my mom, I made Christmas crib. It used to be such fun. The nativity scene exhibiting the birth of Jesus reminds me of my school’s Christmas party. How we waited for a whole year for this day.
Is it even possible to celebrate Christmas without a cake? Baking at home may be fun but Christmas in Kolkata is meaningless without paying a visit to the 100 years old bakeries of Kolkata. Nahoum and Sons in New Market, established in 1902, is my first choice. My dad prefers plum cakes from the Lalit Great Eastern Bakery, a hotel which was established in 1840. When in Kolkata, how can you keep yourself from not visiting Flury’s in Park Street? Flury’s, established in 1928, still rules the Cake World in Kolkata, in spite of the presence of Michelin stared confectioners.
Mandatory Visit to Park Street for Christmas in Kolkata:
Walking down Park Street on Christmas is an experience. Lights and music breathe in so much life into Park Street. I visit every year and watch in amazement. There are food stalls set up on both sides of the street. As mentioned earlier, a quick visit to Flury’s in Park Street is a practice. The lights drive away all gloominess and sorrows. Park Street is the hot spot for instagram shots.
St. Paul’s Cathedral on Christmas:
Christmas implies carols, hymns and prayers. I make sure that Christmas in Kolkata is spent by visiting the St. Paul’s Cathedral. The gothic architecture of the majestic monument and the enormous garden are close to my heart. However, on Christmas it looks even more beautiful with lights, flowers and candles all over. Choirs keep singing hymns and make the ambiance heavenly. The garden is full of flowers and candles. Numerous photographers are seen around the compound, clicking to their hearts’ content. Lighting candles here and praying on Christmas are soul cleansing.
Santa Claus and How He Inspires:
Santa Claus during Christmas is seen everywhere, on the streets of Kolkata, in the shops and at the restaurants. We do not have Santa Schools though. Haven’t you heard of Schools for Santa Claus? Well, there are some schools in USA and Europe which train Santas. The Charles W Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan, USA, established in 1937, is the first of the lot. They say that one has to be a Santa in the mind. It is so true. The love, goodness, kindness and generosity a Santa reflects are what we all need to learn. The legend of Santa Claus dates back hundreds of years to a kind and generous monk named St. Nicholas, born in 280 A.D., in modern day Turkey. Santa Claus inspires me to be a Santa in the soul and I make sure that I pass on some assistance to the poor and needy kids and street urchins on Christmas. Christmas is a day when all of us must try to become the Santa for these kids in whatever little way possible.
Christmas in Kolkata is Incomplete without Reading Christmas Stories:
Bengalis are voracious readers in general and are especially fond of classics. The classic Christmas Stories have such strong message in them that you must read from them to truly instill the spirit of Christmas. I often read out to children so that they imbibe the ideas of kindness, sharing and caring. Christmas stories are all about finding joy through giving and being kind. My all time favourite is O. Henry’s ‘Gift of the Magi’, a story of love, care, sacrifice and gifting; written in 1905. In my childhood my mom read to me, ‘A Christmas Carol’, an 1843 Classic by Charles Dickens. This year I plan to read out ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’, from the series of Grimm’s Fairytales, one of the first published (1812) Fairytales in the World.In fact this year I made a Christmas tree with books.
Christmas in Kolkata Means Time Spent with Friends and Family:
25th of December is an important holiday; a holiday that keeps us busy with our hectic schedule. The mandatory Christmas gatherings of friends and family are what I cherish the most. Whether at home or outside, we meet over food and drinks, laughing, talking, making merry and often joyfully singing and dancing. Now, that’s what I call Christmas vibe.
Let this Christmas be merry for all. Shall we all celebrate Christmas in its true spirits.