A dollop of Bengal – Xmas

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.

Xmas –

Xmas Park Street Carnival 2
Christmas Parade on Park Street

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 –

XMas Park Street WhatsupLife
Park Street lighted up during Christmas Eve – Source:Whatsuplife

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.

XMas Park Street1 WhatsupLife
Christmas decoration at Park Street: Source – Whatsuplife

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.

Xmas Park Street Carnival
Christmas Parade in 2018 at Park Street

Christmas Parade in 2018 at Park Street

A two-hour Christmas Parade is also organised on one of the days in which about 500 school children participate.

Bow Barracks –

Xmas Bowbarracks whatsuplife
Bow Barracks during Christmas – Source:Whatsuplife

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 –

Xmas St.Pauls
Midnight Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral – Source:Whatsuplife

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.

Xmas City centre Salt Lake
City Centre Mall – Salt Lake, Kolkata decorated for Christmas

City Centre Mall – Salt Lake, Kolkata decorated for Christmas

Food –

Xmas -nahoum The week
Nahoum’s Cakes – Source:The Week

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 –

Xmas with the toddler.jpg
The toddler mesmerized by the Christmas Tree

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.

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? Ex-Banker turned Blogger/Writer/Solopreneur. Any qualifications? A Post graduate degree in Chemistry followed by Post Graduate Diploma in Management. I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots to what I do presently. Have I done any real work? If two years in Market Research and six years in Banking (three different Banks though) as Branch Head can be considered as real work. Where do I live? After a nomadic sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Food, travel, books and my two and half year old toddler son What is this blog about ? Sonia's musings is an attempt to channelize emotions through words and pictures hoping they touch a chord with my visitors.

13 thoughts on “A dollop of Bengal – Xmas”

  1. Did you study in Mary Immaculate Behrampur?
    I absolutely love your posts. They invariably make me nostalgic. They rekindle my love for my city. The way you put forward Bengal and Bengali traditions deserve a big applause. Keep writing.

    Like

  2. Wowww!! I loved all the lighting and the decorations! And, of course, all that talk about cakes!
    But, it’s the beauty of Christmas when everyone, irrespective of faith, gathers at the Cathedral, that really touches the heart, isn’t it?
    I just read in yesterday’s chat on the twitter group about your baby not keeping well. How’s he, now? I hope he is much better, and so are you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and continued encouragement Shilpa. It means a lot to me.
      The toddler is still quite unwell and it is becoming a big challenge to write the posts, specially because none of the topics are pre decided. Just waiting to finish the last two alphabets.

      Like

      1. Aww… That must be so difficult, Sonia! I will pray for your baby to get well soon, and for you to find the strength to do it all – caring for both your babies. Just two days left, and then we can all take a vacation. 😊💕

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  3. beautifully return on Christmas sonia. I have spent decorating the Christmas tree and wrapping gifts in carmel school at deshapriya park road. The sister would call us to help her around during the Christmas. been to park street and the cathedral during christmas.

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  4. Loved this post and the insight into a different kind of Christmas to mine. Lovely pictures too. 3rd last letter of the alphabet in the 2018 A to Z Blogging Challenge. X is for Xerosis.

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  5. Hi Sonia, hope your son is doing well now. Kudos to your efforts of publishing posts so frequently and your writeups are also quite impressive.I am also in the same boat my twin toddlers are unwell past 15days and I am not able to write. I really appreciate and try to be like you. At the end of the day I am so exhausted that I am almost blank…..
    Be an inspiration keep writing!!

    Like

  6. I spent the Christmas of 2011 in Kolkata with an Anglo-Indian friend from the city. That community is so warm and welcoming. Anyone who wants to celebrate with them is taken in with open arms. And I LOVE their food!!
    Time and again this friend has treated me with all the delicious cakes, my favourite being Nahoum’s black forest cake. 🙂

    Like

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