Calcutta turns city of joy for Christmas

Kolkata : In Bow Barracks, central Kolkata’s famous heritage address inhabited by Christians and Anglo-Indians, residents are brewing wine, baking cakes, decking up ceilings with silver bells and streamers.

Many working abroad have returned to the row of red brick buildings there, with celebrations slated to begin well ahead of Christmas, when the old and young break into jigs to the tune of “Jingle bells”.

About four kilometres from there lies the fashionable Park Street, for long the epicentre of Christmas festivities in the city.

Variously known as the “Food Street” for the landmark dining hubs and “The Street that Never Sleeps” for its bustling night spots, the mansion-lined street that oozes a British era charm is all lit up and decorated.

Shops are showcasing colourful decorations, famed food joints are offering turkey and cake, and gleeful tiny tots are waiting for gifts from ‘Uncle Santa’ — the city is busy showing why it is known for the Yuletide spirit.

Kolkata city, which has a population of around 4.5 million, is estimated to have over 90,000 Christians. But the spirit of the festival touches all, irrespective of religion, perhaps a hangover of the days when the city was the capital of British colonial rulers.

A certain part of the city is all set to witness ‘snowfall’! Illusion Lounge at Highland Park mall will create artificial snowfall on Christmas Day.

“As visitors enter, they will feel as if they are in some icy cold place, with snow flakes all around. Santa Claus will also be seen riding on his sleigh while the menu of course will have varied turkey preparations and cakes,” the lounge’s manager Shantanu Ghosh said.

The five-star hotels in the city too are geared up for the year-end celebrations, putting up Christmas-themed food fests.

ITC Sonar’s Gourmet Shop is ready with its ‘Xmas goodies’. On offer are wines, turkey, cakes, myriad chocolates and pudding, complementing the spirit of the season.

From colourful snow streamers, sparkling battery-operated stars, snow bells, dancing Santas, musical Christmas trees, wreaths and foldable decorative items, the decor shops have lined up a host of ornaments to add the extra glitz to the celebrations this year.

Most of the city hotels and restaurants have included scrumptious turkey dishes and delicious cakes, while the bakeries too have lined up a wide variety of their wares.

The Hyatt’s La Cucina has prepared a special Pranzo (Italian) menu, with roasted leg of lamb with Christmas pudding, Italian Christmas dessert-Panettone accompanied by unlimited select premium spirits, wine, beer and Prosecco (Italian wine).

Amidst all the frenzy, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien however will have a “quiet and private Christmas”.

“Will go for an early morning visit to the graveyard to remember those who are no more. Followed by a quiet lunch and dinner with the family,” O’Brien said .

Triple Olympic gold winning legendary hockey player Leslie Claudius has been busy for a week now preparing for Dec 25.

“Christmas is a grand festival for us, giving the opportunity for old friends to come together and celebrate. I have been very busy making arrangements for the big day,” Claudius said .

“I have a lot of friends and we go from place to place collecting the old men, have a drink, lovely food and reminisce old times. It’s undoubtedly the best time of the year.”

The festivities were ushered in last Sunday with the Calcutta Christmas Festival at Park Street, where hundreds sampled street food and danced merrily under the sky.

Eateries lined up across the street lured revellers with delicacies from Goa, authentic Bengali and south Indian cuisines, while cakes and cookies added to the delight.

The festival also gave the city its maiden ‘flash mob’ performance as hundreds of youngsters broke into impromptu jigs while the loudspeakers blared the choicest of dance tunes at the Park Street and Free School Street crossing.

“I was fortunate to be part of this flash mob. After all it’s our city, our Kolkata, our people…Kolkata is not the ‘city of joy’ for nothing,” said Vivek Tripathi.

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