X barely had any other option to write about except the festival that rises beyond religion to be celebrated with zeal and fervour in the city – Xmas or Christmas.
Christmas Parade on Park Street
The shimmering lights, Christmas songs, rock music, delicious food, the decorated trees, gifts, aroma of fruit cake and plum-cake bring life to the city during the Christmas season. What makes this a unique affair is the fact that the festival is not just celebrated by the Christian community here but people from different communities. They offer prayers and sing carols during the midnight mass in the churches. It is an amalgamation of faith, food and fun for everyone.
Few areas of the city that bring life to the celebrations are –
Park Street –
Park Street lighted up during Christmas Eve – Source:Whatsuplife
Kolkata Christmas Festival (KCF), conducted annually during the month of December on Park Street, Kolkata, is one of the largest dedicated Christmas carnivals in India. It was held from December 22 to January 2nd in 2018. The themed lighting starts from St Xavier’s College and ends at Jawaharlal Nehru Road. This has been extended in recent years at both ends – up to the Mullick Bazar crossing on Park Street and up to St Paul’s Cathedral on Cathedral Road. This themed lighting is designed by artisans from the town of Chandannagore.
A large Christmas tree is placed near Mother Teresa’s statue at the Park Street-Camac Street crossing. Park Street is turned into a walk-only zone during Christmas and New Year’s eves.
Christmas decoration at Park Street: Source – Whatsuplife
Allen Park is the nucleus of the carnival where the live music performances take place. The choir of Dr Graham’s Homes School from Kalimpong, Calcutta Symphony Orchestra from the Calcutta School of Music and choirs have performed at the KCF. Usha Uthup and bands like Barefoot, Krosswindz, Orient Express have performed live at KCF over the years.
35 to 40 food stalls and kiosks are set up on the streets and the street food festival is a sight to behold during this period.
Christmas Parade in 2018 at Park Street
Bow Barracks –
Bow Barracks during Christmas – Source:Whatsuplife
Across a narrow lane between Hare Street and Bow Bazar Police Station, lies Bow Barracks. These old red brick housing estates are the homes of the Anglo-Indian population in Kolkata. It houses people from different faiths, ethnicity and background. The area celebrates the festival with lights, trees, silver bells and streamers. Residents also set up stalls selling traditional food like cutlets, vindaloo, rose cookies and cakes.
St. Paul’s Cathedral –
Midnight Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral – Source:Whatsuplife
The largest cathedral in Kolkata holds the midnight mass with choirs and carols. The church is decorated with Christmas tree, lights, silver bells and streamers. On the premises, sculptures pertaining to the birth of Jesus is kept on display. A huge number of residents, irrespective of their religion flock to the cathedral to partake in the midnight mass and celebrate Christmas.
It is essential to mention that while the above three are the most popular destinations to celebrate Christmas amidst a crowd full of life in the city, this festival find its wide acceptance across the city and state through festivities and grand celebration. Even the shopping malls and retail outlets are decorated keeping in line with the Christmas spirit.
City Centre Mall – Salt Lake, Kolkata decorated for Christmas
Nahoum’s Cakes – Source:The Week
One of the most sought-after cakes during Christmas is the rich fruit cake from Nahoum’s, a Jewish bakery dating back to 1902.
Another popular bakery is the 80-year-old Saldanha Bakery and Confectionery known for their walnut cake and rich fruit cakes.
Flury’s – the iconic restaurant on Park Street have their signature fruit, plum and dundee cakes.
Mulled wine, fruit and plum cakes, fresh bread, turkey and duck roasts are the popular items on the Christmas special buffet at various restaurants.
The personal angle –
The toddler mesmerized by the Christmas Tree
Having studied in a convent school (Mary Immaculate School), I was introduced to the beauty of Christmas celebration quite early on in life. Every year we eagerly waited for Christmas and turned up in school without fail on the Christmas eve to actively get involved in the festivities.
Last year, we explored many places in Kolkata with our toddler during the Christmas season. This was his first introduction to Santa Claus and Christmas trees. He was amazed at the lighted up Park Street and turned out to be an excited audience to the Christmas Parade.
Enjoy the food and festivities pictures until we meet for the second last post in this series tomorrow.