Grand celebrations mark Christmas in Kolkata

Kolkata, Dec 25 : Sparkling lights, the wintry air heavy with the aroma of freshly baked cakes, and lilting sounds of Christmas carols marked festivities Wednesday in the eastern metropolis.

Crowded streets were dotted with Christmas trees. There were also traditional celebrations in city homes. The yuletide spirit spread, embracing Christians and non-Christians alike in West Bengal.

Tourist hot-spots like the zoo, Victoria Memorial and Indian Museum were full with visitors. Churches, decked up for the occasion, saw thousands of people pouring in through the day.

At the stroke of midnight Tuesday night, St. Paul's Cathedral in central Kolkata and other churches across the state, decorated with colourful festoons, paper stars, streamers, Christmas trees, twinkling lights and candles, drew huge crowds, cutting across religious identities.

Midnight mass was followed by day-long prayers.

Mother House, the global headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) founded by Mother Teresa, welcomed hundreds of visitors, who started pouring in since morning.

The city's famous heritage address, Bow Barracks, inhabited by Christians and Anglo-Indians, bustled with activity. The aroma of home-brewed wine and the smell of cake baking, sounds of songs and rhythms of dances could all be experienced here as children and the aged revelled in festivities. Some of the preparations for the day had begun well ahead of Christmas.

The Bakery at the renovated the Lalit Great Eastern, which has a history that goes back to the 1830s, drew in foodies for a slice of the traditional plum cake, fruit cake, cookies and chocolates.

Bakeries in various parts of the state put up innovative theme cakes.

In northern West Bengal's Siliguri, "Fuleco" cakes, based on the three-banded armadillo, the mascot for the 2014 World Cup, tickled tastebuds. There were also cakes depicting Nelson Mandela. Cakes and goodies depicting the Uttarakhand disaster also caught eyeballs.

Thousands thronged the ongoing carnival at the fashionable Park Street, Kolkata's epicentre of Christmas celebrations. The line-up of food kiosks and the rousing chorus of Christmas carols added to the cheer.

To enable revellers to soak in the Christmas spirit unhindered, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declared Park Street a "no vehicle" zone from evening till midnight Wednesday.

The chief minister personally took interest in planning the decorative lighting in the area. She said she drew inspiration from the lighting done in the former French colony of Chandenagore in Hooghly district during festivals.

Many city hotels and restaurants included sumptuous turkey dishes and delicious cakes in their menu. Iconic bakeries like Nahoum's and the famed tearoom Flury's too have lined up a wide variety of wares.

"I stand in queue every year to buy the plum cakes and other goods. Christmas isn't Christmas without cake," Arunima Ghosh told IANS.

People visited their relatives, exchanged greetings and gifts, while children and youngsters organised picnics and community feasts.

"We have purchased Santa Claus hats and sweaters to celebrate Christmas. The city looks wonderful at this time of year," said Ray Kurian, a student.

--IANS (Posted on 25-12-2013)

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