It's that time of the year again. Bells might not be jingling in your neighbourhood but your heart if surely going falalalala. With Christmas right around the corner and your office all set to deck up in red and green, I'm sure you are longing to spend the big day in Santa's lap. Even if that does not materialize, there are several places in India where Christmas is celebrated in all its glory, twinkling lights adorn neighbourhood shops, bells chime through the air, and little children dressed as Santa run around the streets. Such is the spirit of Christmas in Kolkata.
At Christmas time, Goa becomes busy and prices shoot up. The same is the scene with Pondicherry. As Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore's Christmas culture is more often restricted to the urban population, Kolkata is that one metro city in the country that welcomes guests with open arms, religion, class and caste no bar. Before I ever saw everyone's favourite Christmas movies Love Actually or Home Alone, and before I could comprehend what Christmas could seem like in Trafalgar Square or Times Square, my parents took me every year to Kolkata's Park Street. Never in our formative years did we realize Christmas is a non-Hindu tradition. Every December would start with my sister slyly hinting on her good behavioral patterns over the year, which meant Santa should not take her name out of the list. I was the good child, offering to keep a slice of the plum cake on the table before going to bed. He must be hungry travelling all the way from the North Pole, I reasoned.
Our visit to the city on Christmas Eve would be marked by the mandatory drop-in at St Paul's Cathedral, where my mother was always amused by the nativity scene and I remember her asking us to take a family photo with Baby Jesus, every single year. This was followed by a stroll in the famous Park Street. Back in that time, Christmas was celebrated with aplomb, but it hadn't become a carnival yet. Flury's and Moulin Rouge would have an insane queue outside. As these memories keep flooding in, I realize, that the best Christmas celebration in India has to be in Kolkata. Not just Park Street, there are many more places to visit in Kolkata that could explain the city's warm connection with the Christmas tradition.