Kolkata, the grand city of emotions, cultures and romance, has always been a forerunner of sorts in following and upholding British cultures. The old capital of British India boasts of a number of antique churches, cemeteries and Anglo Indian strongholds. The Armenian Church, St.Paul’s Cathedral and the South Park Street Cemetery are noteworthy tourist attractions, among many. Given this legacy, it isn’t a surprise that Christmas is one of Kolkata’s major festivals. Occurring at the peak of the city’s mild winter, Christmas is celebrated throughout the city with homemade cakes, wine, carols, and friends and family going out for dinner. Park Street, in the middle of all this, becomes the hotbed of the warm, fuzzy festivity.
For reference, Park Street is one of the most heavily frequented sites in the city, all through the year. Running from Chowringhee to Mullick Bazar, it was initially a stretch of road running through a deer park owned by Elijah Impey, the erstwhile Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Calcutta. This is where it derived its name, and although it is called Mother Teresa Sarani officially, people still refer to it with its old name
Home to some of the city’s most famous fine dining restaurants, cafes, bookstores and other places of attractions, Park Street is a warm haven of celebration and smiles. Since the early twentieth century, Park Street has been the epicenter of Kolkata’s nightlife. Restaurants like Trincas, Flury’s, Moulin Rouge and Peter Cat have a somewhat revered status as legends of Kolkata’s prime festive hideouts. Adding to that are the brightly lit facades of St. Xavier’s College and the entire faux roof of the street, all of which combine to make Park Street a bright, sparkling cauldron – the epicenter of Christmas in Kolkata.
The lights of Park Street during Christmas draw vast crowds from the middle of December itself. Traditionally, the lights extended from Mullik bazaar to Chowringhee, but currently they have been extended to St.Paul’s Cathedral, lying beyond Park Street. Under this starry ceiling, the stretch also hosts 35 food stalls in Allan Park and the pavements leading to it. This is done as part of what is called the ‘Park Street Christmas Carnival’, organised by the Government of West Bengal and a host of private organisations. The restaurants of Park Street play old Christmas classics all day long, and places like Trincas or Someplace Else offer live music, the likes of which add a special ambience to the entire place. Flury’s is highly frequented for its much renowned cakes and English breakfast.
Under the Park Street Christmas Carnival, the festival is inaugurated on the 18th of December by the Chief Minister, and continues till January 2. A parade by school children is being organised on the 20th. The Police band and army bands too are expected to play in Allen Park. With all of this at hand, it is no wonder that Christmas is, like most things associated with the city, a more emotional affair than mere festivity. It is the corner of warmth in a month of pleasantly chilly winters.
Christmas is a festival of fellowship and warmth, of carols and cakes, and of gratitude and love. Calcutta catches this spirit beautifully, and everyone is likely to feel it in the air as one goes around the city during this time. Park Street appears at her beautiful best, like the locket in the necklace Calcutta wears to dress up for Christmas.
The author, Ritwik Sinha is a resident of Kolkata and a student of Satyajit Ray Film And Television Institute.