As I said, Calcutta is a cosmopolitan city. Here Eid is celebrated with as much zest as Diwali or Christmas. Whether you are Hindu or Muslim or whatever, no one fails to head out for biriyanis on Eid. In my family I believe it is a sin to not have biriyani during a Muslim festival! (Yes, I had warned you much earlier that Calcutta also revolves around food!) just as it is criminal not to enjoy the sweets served during the pujas.
Christmas, however, is a whole new ball game altogether. It is surprising how the city comes together to celebrate Chistmas. Park Street is lit up like a fairy land. There are stalls selling everything from momos to cupcakes, live music is playing in Bow Barracks and in Allen park and there is a sense of festivity in the air. It’s also the best time of year to be out in Calcutta. There is a nip in the air and the sluggish heat and humidity of the summer is a distant memory. Everyone is out to have fun. The line at Nahoum’s for the plum cakes stretch as far back as you can see and everyone wants some roast and cake and gifts from Santa Claus!
Christmas has always been special for us. My mum was a Christian and my dad only needed half an excuse to celebrate anything. Also, thanks to that good weather I mentioned, this was also the time of year when most relatives would visit Calcutta. Schools would be over and the new year would be beginning only in January. No one asked us to study, we were allowed to enjoy our winter vacations basking in the sun and jaunting around town. Add to that the cakes and chocolates from Flury’s.
When my girls were small I had taken great pains to ensure that they had a Christmas tree with all the trimmings. Gifts in stockings, roast dinners, etc, the works. As they grew older I kept threatening that I would cancel Christmas but each year I find myself dragging out the tree…promising myself that this one will be the last! My daughters only laugh in response! Yes, my childhood memories of the Calcutta winters are the best ones ever, be it with family or friends. And if winter is here, Christmas, surely, cannot be far behind!