Sidney Rebeiro, whose family is one of the oldest Anglo-Indian families still residing Delhi, often compares the Christmas of his childhood and that of today.
An illuminated Church on Christmas eve in Kolkata.
It was in early 19th century, 1909 to be precise, when Rebeiro's father moved to the city from Calcutta. Two years later, the imperial Capital of British India was shifted to New Delhi.
"We celebrated our first Christmas in the city in 1909. We went to St Mary's Church that was located on Queen's Road, next to which was the Railway Colony. Christmas in those days was marked by a lot of warmth and fellowship. But more importantly, it symbolised an inter-religious mingling of people," said Rebeiro.
In 1911, when New Delhi was declared the Capital, the Christmas that followed this declaration was indeed momentous. "Christmas that year was glorious. There was a sudden adrenaline leap and a lot of people migrated to Delhi during that time from all corners of the country, especially from undivided Punjab, Lucknow and Dakka (now Dhaka)," he said.
Through his days as a student at Presentation Convent and later Delhi Public School (DPS), he noted how the festival was marked by simplicity.
"In school, it was all about Santa Claus, singing carols and getting gifts. We used to enact the birth of Christ on stage in school. We went to St James' Church as children, the lawns of which are now occupied by the ISBT."
As time passed, Rebeiro noted a paradigm shift in not just the significance of the festival, but in its commercial connotation too. What was earlier emblematic of greater familial bonds and warmth has now given way to nuclear celebrations.
"The ambience is now corporatised to the extent of making profits out of the festival. You have expensive gadgets and goodies readily available now. Earlier, baking the Christmas cake involved all members of the family. We would later go to a neighbourhood bakery to use their oven. Now it's all readily available. The large family units that sat together are now nuclear. The city is also far more unsafe, so the festivities don't really extend into the night," said Rebeiro.