As the New Year’s bell rings around the World, it is customary to feel joyous. Even if we know that it is just a turn of a calendar, the fairy lights and tuni bulbs surrounding us work no less than a magic to enlighten our soul.
The city of joy seen celebrating Christmas throwing away a raging coronavirus pandemic to the bin. Over tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Kolkata, many of them with red and white combination accessorising themselves with Reindeer horns, Santa caps and Vegas glasses.
Behind the tinsel and glitter celebrations, there’s a greater joy, a joy Kolkatans were eagerly waiting to celebrate. From decoration to food, Kolkata, or by heart Calcutta, has aced it all, not only this time but every single year making it a grand one.
Be it whatever occasion, Kolkata always remains decked up with lights and glitters. The whole length of Park Street is donned with fairy lights, tuni bulbs and Christmas-themed lighting. After the sun sets, the lights come on and it’s absolutely magical. People are just going Gaga over this season.
Giant Christmas tree
If you’ve been to Allen Park, you’ll notice a giant Christmas tree decked out in baubles, lights, snowflakes, and other decorations. Stand in front of it, fighting the crowd and take your fair share of festive photos – it’s like a ‘go grab the deal!’ kind of situation.
Mandatory lunch at Park Street
The season is all about celebration and good food! And with good food, the only place that pops in mind is Park Street – a divine package for Christmas and New Year outing. The length of Park Street and Allen Park were lined with tens of food stalls serving baked cookies, homemade treats, warming snacks like momos and noodles and rolls. And no wonder, Christmas cake tops the list!
The aura is all about music. Some of the most renowned performers hit the stage to belt out their Christmas tunes. Eminent singers Usha Uthup to Shane Hyrapiet, have all been there. The Glorious evening also sees performances and choral presentations from the city’s best choirs — church groups, youth bands and more. Step out anytime in the evening of the festival and witness musical performances. Several cafes and restaurants had also organised orchestra or open mic sessions.
Zoo and Victoria
In the evening, Kolkatans choose Park Street and in the morning they hop into the Alipore Zoo or Victoria for a family picnic. Babu, the chimpanzee, the top draw with a throng of people gathered around the perimeter wall of its enclosure. Many were jeering at him for some reason. The high glass walls around the enclosure prevented people from throwing food inside.
The other attractions were the giraffe enclosure and white tiger. In view of the massive crowd, the zoo’s gates remained open till 5pm, 30 minutes more than usual.
As many as 32,000 people went to Victoria. Several chose both the places to visit with their families.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
If one is close to Victoria, they can never forget to pay a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral. People literally travel from kilometers just to visit the church. Rows of candles were lit in front of a cross, the meditation corner, as those who could not attend the morning prayers inside.
Three prayers were held. The first two — at 7.15am and 8.30am — were conducted in English while the 11am prayer was in Bengali. The gates to the church were open till 4pm. About 2,500 people attended the three morning prayers.
Eco Park & Nicco Park
By 1 o’clock in the afternoon, the Major Arterial Road in New Town had bumper-to-bumper traffic as hundreds of people headed to Eco Park. By 2.30pm, there was no parking space. As per the officials there, over 60,280 people visited Eco Park till 6pm.
After a while, it became unmanageable for the officials to tackle the crowd who were not following the COVID protocols. The Mother’s Wax Museum opposite the park also got a steady footfall.
Though this time, Nicco Park had a footfall of 4,500 on Christmas.
The official said they had made arrangements like placing hand sanitisers at all entry points, near the rides and at the food court.
Birds on display
More than 600 birds of over 160 species like macaws, South African turaco, hornbills and Chinese pheasants were on display at Salt Lake’s BJ Block park as part of a Christmas Carnival. The carnival ended on December 25. Several were seen with their children in the carnival with happy faces.
Of endings and beginnings
Time seems to fly these days and another year has come to an end. The pandemic has indeed taken the sheen off last year’s celebration in Kolkata with fewer public celebrations, but this time the Mamata Banerjee-led government has eased the COVID protocols. But for the unversed, a sudden spurt in the number of COVID cases have been witnessed in Kolkata post-Christmas, sparking fears of yet another wave that may overwhelm the city’s health infrastructure.
Kolkata once again, and quite suddenly, appears to be inching back to the situation when almost everybody had a family member or a friend or acquaintance getting infected with the deadly virus. This time, starting around December 21 until the early days of the new year, thousands were seen on Park Street walking under the lights and soaking in the carnival-like atmosphere. Photographs showed an unbelievably large gathering on the stretch, with no restrictions whatsoever in place.
With celebration, maintaining COVID protocols were equally important. As with such negligence we are no wonder expecting yet another deadly wave of coronavirus and its new variant Omicron.