Long time ago in Bethlehem so the Holy Bible say, Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day. Hark now hear the angels sing a new king born today. And man will live for evermore because of Christmas Day …the carols start playing in all Christian houses as we enter the month of December.
If I have to say as to how I would celebrate Christmas this year, I go down the memory lane. Being miles away from my City of Joy, I miss Christmas the way it is celebrated in Kolkata.
Being brought up in a Roman Catholic house, as a child going for Sunday morning children masses in our church, St Teresa of Avila, Moulali, was always fun. And as the days of Christmas started drawing near, each house in the neighborhood would get busy with a laundry list of activity.
There was so much to do, and so less time. Prepare for the Christmas tree parties …oh yes and that was not one …one organized by the church, one by our school and also the one by the housing colony. Then there was helping mom in cleaning up the house, frequent New Market & Bowbazar visits, to find what’s new to deck up our house for Christmas. And not to forget late nights to decorate the church as well.
The ladies would start getting busy with making sweets and savories. This activity was a ritual in itself. Making of these sweets (pakon pitha, phul pitha, kal kal, patishapta) was such a tedious job, but the ladies had real fun in preparing it.
Following this, the next activity was preparing cakes. Sugar, flour, amul butter, desi eggs, vanilla essence, mixed dry fruits and nuts, were purchased in kilos. The local bakery had to be booked two days in advance. Mom use to wake us up early in the morning, but we never complained for a change. The fresh cakes coming out of wood and charcoal ovens, were a delight. Yes, I still go through this ritual of preparing cake whenever I am in Kolkata for Christmas.
Then, there was buying new dresses, getting them tailored at the local tailor shops, girls going through the catalogue to find out the latest designs, yes that was fun as well. 23rd was kept for confession at the church. Time for some soul cleansing, before receiving Christ. Of course, there were long queues at the church confession box.
As the day drew near, 24th morning was for fresh flowers, marigold, lilies, hibiscus to decorate the house altars. When we would be ready for night vigil mass at St Teresa, carol singing would start by 10 pm, and the night mass by 11. Carols like… Silent night, holy night …Joy to the world, the Lord is come …Away in a manger, no crib for a bed… use to fill the air. Men in their new suits, women in their sarees, girls in their designer dresses, filled up the pews as the parish priest came to the altar for the mass service.
Once the mass was over by around 1.00 am in the night, it was time for celebrations. Meeting up with family and friends, men opening up their bottles of wine and whisky, with pork roast, pork hams, salami, collars, cocktails, sausages, vinda aloo, and not to forget the cakes.
25th of December was a family day. Late breakfast, hearty lunch with more of vinda aloo and pork sausages. Evenings were for friends. Especially our friends from other faith who use to eagerly wait for this special occasion. They would come and hog on all the pitha and cakes that mom had prepared. The celebration and fun mood continued until new year. Then back to routine work, and the long wait for next Christmas!