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 blingPeople 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 dayFOR 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
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.
|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. |
There are many things on a sweet platter – marzipan, milk cream, kulkuls, chocolate fudge, pinag, guava cheese, date rolls, nevris etc.
Bangalore Iyengar Bakery
Where to drink and eat well
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.
* 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!
* 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.
* 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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