Christmas celebrations in Kolkata

Park Street decked up for Christmas

It’s that time of the year again – when beautifully wrapped presents make their way under a tree decked with mistletoe, roast turkey and duck are the pride of dinner tables and warm mulled wine is sipped each evening. If you want to add some real Christmas excitement to your festive season, head to Kolkata and see how the city comes alive to celebrate Christmas.

Park Street is Party Street

Decked up in lights, Park Street is like an open-air Christmas party with food and drink stalls, live music, and entertainment at nearby Allenby Park. From Christmas Eve, Park Street is pedestrianised – no vehicles are allowed – as celebrating crowds descend to give it a carnival-like atmosphere. Sporting Santa caps, people brave the queues at heritage restaurants like Trincas and Moulin Rouge which offer a lavish Christmas platter with roast duck, turkey and pies. Park Street also hosts a Christmas Carnival, with melting pot stalls set up by members of different communities residing in the city.

Midnight mass at St Paul’s Cathedral
Walk to St Paul’s Cathedral for the midnight mass. It was built in 1847 and is modelled after the Canterbury Cathedral. It was the first Anglican Cathedral outside of Britain. Midnight masses are held in many churches, with music by children’s choirs and carols.

 

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Pick up a variety of Christmas decorations from New Market.
Image courtesy: Shweta Andrews

To market, to market

Pick up your Christmas decorations, trees and candy from New Market. It was built in 1874, and christened Hogg’s Market, to cater to the city’s British community. One of the most sought-after cakes during Christmas is the rich fruit cake from Nahoum’s, a Jewish bakery dating back to 1902. Here the pastries, puffs, cakes, fudge are created from old family recipes so come early to avoid the huge crowds at their gate. Our favourites are the plum cake, rich fruit cake and the delectable cheese samosas. Pick up some semi-soft and smoked Bandel cheese at J Johnsons.

Multi colored mixed cream puff fresh eclair cakes
Fresh eclair cakes.
Image courtesy: ©Sami Sert/Getty Images

A taste of Anglo India at Bow Barracks

Across a narrow lane between Hare Street and Bow Bazar Police Station, lies Bow Barracks. These old red brick housing estates are the homes of the Anglo-Indian population in Kolkata. During Christmas week residents set up stalls selling traditional food like cutlets, vindaloo, rose cookies and of course cakes. Do pick up a few bottles of their famous home-made wines (grape, ginger wine, plum and raisin) prepared months ahead using family recipes. Your visit won’t be complete until you step into J N Barua, a cake shop dating back to the British days. Through Christmas week, programmes are lined up – sing and dance, treats for children, Christmas Balls and a senior citizen’s day.

Mulled wine with cinnamon sticks.
Mulled wine is served by many restaurants during Christmas.
Image courtesy: ©AmyLv/Shutterstock

Eat, drink and be merry

Special cakes, the turkey and duck roasts, mulled wine – the food served up during Christmas in Kolkata should be one good reason to get you here. At Flury’s, the iconic restaurant on Park Street, shelves are heaving with their signature fruit, plum and dundee cakes. You must try the baba cake and yule logs. It’s best to line up early or book a table to sample the traditional Christmas lunch with turkey, grilled vegetables, roast chicken and fresh bread. Christmas special buffets at Trincas and Oly Pub serve citrus, cinnamon and warm mulled wine.

Christmas is incomplete until you tuck into a rich plum cake.

Old Bakeries
If you want to see the real spirit of Christmas, head to the small bakeries tucked away in the narrow lanes of Beckbagan where families bring in their cake batter to be baked. A few bakeries are rented out for people who want to bake their own cake and hence when you walk down that street it’ll just be rows and rows of different cakes. Some of the bakeries remain open all night on Christmas eve. A very popular bakery is the 80-year-old Saldanha Bakery and Confectionery. Their walnut cake and rich fruit cakes come wrapped in brown paper and are tied with string. A visit here is mandatory to add that Christmas cheer.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Anuradha Sengupta is a freelance writer and founder-editor of Jalebi Ink, an award-winning media collective for children and youth. A compulsive city-walker, she loves exploring urban cultures and is a columnist for NY-based Karta, a collaborative urban mapping project. Her most memorable adventure was in Afghanistan as digital media advisor, setting up citizens' media centres.