Putting together this Christmas issue was a bit like baking the perfect plum cake – it had to have a robust flavour, be incredibly rich (in detail) and leave you with a warm feeling.
We hoped we’ve nailed all of the above with the stories that follow, right from telling you where to hear mass to putting on a quick (but merry) make-up look to decorating your tree. And since a really good plum cake is the essence of this season, don’t forget to check out where you can buy one. After all, we’ve done all the work, so you shouldn’t have to.
How to decorate a Christmas tree
...because your tree should reflect your personality. And go easy on the bling
People will tell you that there’s no wrong way to decorate a tree. Don’t listen to them. Look instead to the giant eyesores in hotels (all gold and pomp and no personality) or ones in living rooms that look like the owners are colour blind. Shalini D’Silva puts up a magnificent one at Bungalow 9, Bandra. It’s grand, yet intimate. Here are her tips:
* Think of proportions; you don’t want big ornaments on a small tree or vice versa.
* Details count. I’ve passed over stuff that didn’t have good finishing touches.
* Segregate ornaments by colour, type and size before you start.
* Prettiest ornaments go on top or in a viewer’s direct line of sight. Clunkier decorations can hang at the bottom. I love stars, so my tree will always have lots of them. It’s always a debate about whether to put an angel or a star on top, but it’s up to you.
* Ornaments have become sparkly now, but families who have been decorating for years will have less glittery stuff. Go as blingy as you like, so long as it reflects your personality.
* Traditional trees have a nice mix of everything. But if you want just purple decorations, who am I to judge?
* Take several steps back every few minutes and view your tree from a distance. You’ll find the holes, the lopsidedness and imbalance of colour or sizing that you’d have missed at close range. If you have holes, cover them up with cotton.
* Learn from experience. People have loved the little gold angels this year. I know next Christmas I’ll be using them again.
* The final test? People should look at it and smile.
Where to hear mass on the day
FOR THE LATE HOUR: Mount Mary Basilica, Bandra
This is one of the few churches to celebrate mass at midnight, just like the good old days.
FOR THE CROWD: Our Lady of Lourdes, Orlem
Time: 10.30pm carol singing, 11pm mass
Church official Tony Fernandes tells us that “We order 5,000 chairs and they are still not enough.”
FOR THE CRIB: St Francis d’Assisi, Borivali
The church builds a huge crib, which is unveiled right afterwards. Also, the priests and brothers from the missionary order invite everyone to have coffee, cake and sweets with them later.
FOR THE ARCHITECTURE: St Thomas Cathedral, Fort
What makes this special is the cathedral, with its many British-era memorials.
FOR THE CELEB FACTOR: St Andrew’s church, Bandra
At St Andrew’s, you’ll not just be shivering from the cool air, but also from the frisson you will get from spotting Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karisma Kapoor and Malaika Arora Khan, who usually attend the service here.
FOR THE CHOIR: Holy Name Cathedral, Colaba
This service is particularly ceremonial, with great singing and a truly warm atmosphere.
|Carols to sing aloud|
They’re sung in church on December 24 and 25. They’re mostly religious (so Santa Baby is not a carol). Here’s our favourites:
|If you like the classics…|
We Three Kings of Orient Are - Composed by a priest, this is about the Three Wise Men visiting Bethlehem.
Silent Night - The best time to listen to (or sing this) is on Christmas Eve.
If you like a peppy beat...
Joy To The World - This can be exhausting to sing if you don’t have musical chops.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Famously mentioned in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
If you like it solemn...
O Holy Night - This rises to a marvellous crescendo, and is the one we would love to be able to get right.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Our favourite, this is kind of solemn, but has a catchy ring to it.
|Makeup basics: get the Christmas look|
The season’s simplest look – for those too drunk to handle anything complex
Prep: Moisturise, give it a few minutes to sink into your skin (Experts suggest Clarins, Kiehl’s or Shiseido). Remove excess.
Face: Skip foundation, unless you really need it. Use a powder foundation (Chambor or MAC), and brush on a light layer. Or thin your liquid foundation with moisturiser. (Laura Mercier makes good tinted moisturisers).
Red lips highlight the red on other parts of your face. So cover up any spots and redness on your skin (Clinique has correcting primers). Also cover up dark circles (Make Up For Ever and Estée Lauder). Avoid CC creams or make-up with sun protection.
Eyes: You’ll need a shimmery beige, a sparkly gold and a deep bronze shadow. (Maybelline, Lakme, Revlon, NYX, L’Oreal and The Body Shop have good palettes).
Using the tip of your ring finger or an eyeshadow brush, cover up your eyelids – lashline to browbone – with the beige shade closest to the colour of your lids. Next use the tip of your little finger or a crease brush to deposit bronze shadow into the outer half of your socket line – the part of the eyelid that has the crease.
Dip your index fingertip into the gold, look straight ahead, close one eye and stamp the shadow exactly where your eyeball would be. Repeat for other eye. Finally, dip a little fingertip into the gold, and lightly apply it into the inner corners of your eye. Finish with light eyeliner and mascara.
Lips: Apply lip balm. Pick the reddest lipstick you can stand, take a deep breath and go for it.
Cheeks: Apply two light dots of your red lipstick on to each cheek – right on the spot that looks most prominent when you smile. Blend lightly with fingertips. Blot excess; add a second layer if needed. Brush some gold shadow (or dot on with fingertips) on the top of your cheekbones and blend.
(Inputs by make-up artist Jasleen Puri)
Let the feasting begin
Don’t know how to make marzipan? Or stuff a turkey? Turn to these experts for the perfect Christmas meal
Purists say a traditional Christmas lunch is incomplete without a dense plum cake, some succulent meat with stuffing and sugary sweets, all made at home. But we say, why bother to slave in the kitchen when Santa’s helpers can prepare everything for you in theirs.
|Meat of the Matter
Unarguably the piece de resistance of a Christmas lunch, the meat is also the toughest to prepare. And even if you cook the meat well, getting the stuffing right is the trickiest part. Stop pulling your hair out and outsource your turkey, suckling pig and roast chicken.
Pastry chef Christina Fernandes, along with her mother, her doctor husband and a secret recipe will roast the big bird for you, the traditional way. The recipe involves using cold cuts, pork mince, carrots and beans, all sautéed with bread crumbs.
Price: Rs 6,000 for a big bird
Call: 98209 28420
Bandra caterer Kenny Dsouza does a suckling pig “every way you can imagine.” He is famous for his pork roast done Continental style and newer preparations like Thai, Mexican and Indian versions.
Price: Rs 4,000 for a whole pork roast
Call: 97739 31269
You can buy pre-marinated chicken from stores like Godrej Nature’s Basket and Sante’s or head to Mac Craig’s for roast chicken.
Price: Rs 650 for a roast chicken.
Call: 98200 58705
|Christmas cakes are sinfully gooey and sticky, filled with raisins seeped in rum and wine. The perfect slice of cake should stand up on its own, and shouldn’t be too sweet. It should also make you crave another slice.
If you’ve been wondering why their plum cakes taste so good, it’s because the fruit is marinated months in advance.
Price: Special Marzipan Plum Cake, Rs 900/kg
They may be over 50 years old, but this bakery is still very popular. They prepare a traditional cake, minus the frills.
Price: Plum Cake, Rs 250/kg Call: 2493 0562
American Express Bakery
They have a secret recipe that they won’t divulge and they never run out of cakes.
Price: Rich Plum Cake, Rs 600/kg
Call: 2642 2857
There are many things on a sweet platter – marzipan, milk cream, kulkuls, chocolate fudge, pinag, guava cheese, date rolls, nevris etc.
A Bandra resident, Pereira is the go-to lady when it comes to authentic Christmas sweets.
Call: 2641 6189
Bangalore Iyengar Bakery
We ate the sponge cake at work, and loved it so much that this Borivali bakery made it to the list.
Price: Rs 240/kg
Call: 84548 89325
Head here for unusual treats like gingerbread cookies and marzipan-coated cake pops.
Where to drink and eat well
Craving turkey this Christmas?
Just head to Shiro (Bombay Dyeing Mills, Worli) and dig in at the live carving station.
WHEN: December 25 (12.30pm-4pm)
Want to sample some maple-glazed roast chicken?
Hop to your nearest Mocha (Bandra and Ghatkopar) because it’s on the menu till January.
WHEN: December 22 to January 6
Enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch at Blue Frog (Lower Parel) with turkey, ham, mulled wine, eggnog, pudding and more. There’s also a live choir to get you in the festive mood.
WHEN: December 25 (noon to 4pm)
Masala Kraft (Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bunder) will celebrate Christmas with a unique twist – Christmas dinner, desi style.
WHEN: December 25
Sip the eggnog and gingerbread martini at Li Bai (Palladium Hotel, Lower Parel) and bring in Christmas.
WHEN: December 24
How about some Christmas barbeque in this nippy weather?
Just head to Out of The Blue (Bandra) with your family and friends and have a jolly good time.
WHEN: December 24 (8pm-11pm), December 25 (8pm-1am)
Jamjar Diner (Versova) has the intriguingly named ‘Xmas Flower Pot’, among other items on its Christmas menu.
WHEN: December 25 to 31, 9am to 1am
|Things you didn’t know about the season|
A lot of bizarre stuff you didn’t know about Christmas.
* December 25, in the year 336, is the first recorded celebration of Christmas.
* Before the 13th century, no one sang Christmas carols.
* Christmas tree originated in Germany, around 8th century.
* Mistletoe literally means dung twig! Shall we pucker up?
* Santa Claus is the American pronunciation of Sinter Klaas, which was Dutch for Saint Nicholas.
* Due to international time zones, our modern day Santa Claus has 31 hours to deliver presents to all the kids in the world. But to do so, he’ll need to travel at a rate of 7,718.20kph!
* In Ukraine, a spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.
* In Norway on Christmas Eve, families hide all the brooms. They believe that witches come out that day and steal their brooms for riding.
* The Japanese celebrate Christmas by eating fried chicken. Boom time KFC we reckon!
* In the Austrian Alps, a terrifying figure known as Krampus walks with St. Nicholas on his travels. The demon-like figure carries a whipping rod and a sack for naughty children.
* Don’t be surprised if you find a character called El Caganer among the figures in the traditional Nativity scene defecating. In Spain's Catalonia region, legend has it that his ‘fertilizer’ yields a good harvest for the following year.
* On Christmas day, southern Africans celebrate by eating plump caterpillars of the emperor moth, deep fried in oil.
* Santa rides a horse in the Netherlands, a kangaroo in Australia, he paddles a canoe in Hawaii and rides a donkey in Switzerland.
* During the Santa Claus World Championships, held in Switzerland, teams of Santa Clauses compete in chimney climbing, snowball fighting, sledge racing, donkey trekking, and Santa skiing.
* Estonians hit the saunas to unwind on Christmas Eve. Well, you’d expect that of them.
* Inhabitants of Greenland eat Kiviak - over 400 auks that are stuffed inside a seal for seven months, during which time the auks ferment. Gross!
* Santa Claus doesn’t visit children in Italy, but the witch La Befana does instead.
COMPILED BY: Rachel Lopez, Amrah Ashraf, Mignonne Dsouza
From HT Brunch, December 22
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