Bells jingle spirit of Kolkata as Christmas blooms

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Kolkata, Dec 25 (UNI) The Anglican legacy of Calcutta, as the city was previously known, makes Christmas a special time to be awashed in Yuletide spirit for all the people more Christian in spirit, than by religion.

Perhaps, the only other festival in Bengal that cuts across all religions other than Durga Puja, Christmas not only celebrates the arrival of Baby Jesus, but also the spirit of love, forgiveness and friendly congregation.

While the state capital sports a joyous spirit welcoming Father Christmas and God's child, the true feeling of Christmas is really around the Anglo-Indian community, which though declining in number, is high on spirit.

The feeling of celebration begins from the first week of December, when from and around the back alleys of Wellesley and Eliot Road, Park Lane and Ripon street, little women in their skirts or their next generation of la belle in flowing red hair set out to buy the ingredients for a festal reunion when aunts and cousins and friends and in-laws will descend from up-country places or the more distant environs of Australia or Canada.

There are menus that are a must in the city. Mince pies, rich fruit cakes, chocolate nuggets and a store of candied peel and preserved pumpkin, sugared cherries and wrinkled raisins forming the ingredients of a home baked cake, served with a little red wine or rum.

Turkey is one other item that is well in demand. And with the descending of the threat of bird flu, they are abundant on the menu charts. Elite clubs like CCFC, Tolly Club, Calcutta Club and a few hotels and restaurants have already ordered their share. Birds come in from Bangalore ready to be served at your table, for a sumptuous feast.

Perhaps, the colonial hangover also has its effect on the city. A melting pot for different cultures, Kolkata still dazzles in its Christmas finery in the Victorian aura that floats along every by-lane around Sunset Boulevard or Park Street as it is often called.

Confectioners have a brisk sale ahead of the big day. Nahoum's in New Market, considered by many to do the best commercially made, rich fruit cakes in the city, have a field day. For plum puddings, however, connoisseurs go next door to M X D'Gama's or Maxo's as it is popularly known. Provided one can stand the prices, Flury's on Park Street remains unbeatable for mince pies and other seasonal specialties like chocolate cones, Yule logs and nougatines.

In addition to those huge cones made out of cakes brought by whole-sellers along the narrow lanes of New Market, where grudging bargains are done with for a sale of cake and dry fruits as people jostle determined to have their share of Christmas.

The Bengali culture has also unknowingly blended into the glow of Christmas, with 'nolen gurer sondesh' (jaggery mixed sweet) finding its way into the Christmas table. Some florists along temples even sell roses and lillies, that are in great demand today.

The day begins with the universal appeal of Father Nicholas landing huge booty of gifts at the doorsteps on the base of the Chirstmas tree, which decorates homes of people who are non-Christians too, and blends into the midnight carol and mass of St Paul's Cathedral that flow through the vast darkness of the maidan blessed with the arrival of the Lord.

UNI

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