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Traditional festivities set Christmas mood

The youth in Delhi, like the rest of the country, are harking back to traditions to keep the spirit of X'mas alive complete with mistletoe, wine and Santa Claus.

delhi Updated: Dec 24, 2007 11:45 IST

Can Christmas be merry without mistletoe, wine and Santa Claus? Definitely not! The youth in Delhi - like the rest of the country - are harking back to traditions to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

Some call it the Yuletide, after the Scandinavians who celebrated the ancient festival of Yule, while the world at large associates the festival with the birth of Christ.

The youth in the city feel that Christmas needs a "personalised flavour to make it special."

Joleen Gomes, an executive with advertising major Grey Worldwide, says: "I celebrate the festival at home every year. Last night, I stayed up to bake cookies, a mix of Bengali and English delicacies, at home."

"I combed the Lajpat Nagar, Khan Market and Chandni Chowk markets for goodies and material to install a crib at home. It is ready. I have even stitched my own clothes."

She believes nothing is better than being at home during Christmas. "We are so busy working round the year."

A resident of Laxmi Nagar in East Delhi, Joleen will go to the St Matthew's Church for her midnight mass, along with nearly 500 Christian families of the area.

"St Matthew's Church has three masses, one for the Bengali crowd, another for the Malayalam-speakers from Kerala and another in Hindi. Forty years ago, this Church started from my home," she said.

Roxanne Moon, an executive with the American Express bank, is also celebrating Christmas at home. She will go to the Alaknanda Holy Church, while Shalini Joseph has come down from Mumbai to be with her parents in Delhi for Christmas.

Of course, the appeal of the festival cuts across faiths with non-Christians gearing up equally for plum cakes, gifts and parties.

Delhi-based Reena Choudhury, a management associate with communication firm Actimedia, will party with her colleagues at work.

"It is a homely affair. We will split the cost, food, cake, gifts and the decorations between 40 of us at the workplace. A friend has loaned out her place. We are making it quiet and cosy," the young executive said.

However, the scene is somewhat different in hotels. They are crammed with events. The high point, say hoteliers and event managers, is the food. Almost every star hotel and entertainment resort in the capital is hosting its own Christmas lunch and dinner.

The league of Santa Claus, mostly home-grown, is already on the prowl among children with their gift sacks.

"There's a special Christmas-eve dinner on Monday night and a lunch on Tuesday morning. The celebrations began on December 18 with a special play on the birth of Christ by eight children aged between three and six," said Pallavi Singh of Hotel Crowne Plaza, Delhi. The hotel has done up two "huge Christmas trees" for the occasion.

Chef Vijay, a portly man with a laughing face, is the Santa Claus like every year. "He has been showering the diners' children with gifts," Singh said.

A children's choir has been assigned the task of singing carols. "The choir has been coming several times during the day to entertain guests," Singh said.

At The Patio, a pastry shop at the Metropolitan hotel, Santa Claus Sandeep Tanwar, a hotel employee, is keeping his evenings aside for the kids. "The gifts are a secret. Even we will get surprise gifts," said a senior hotel official.

The spreads at hotels are exotic and "very foreign". The Patio has a special cookie spread of English fruitcakes, Christmas puddings, Yule Logs and chocolate mud cakes.

At the La Piazza in Hyatt Regency, Chef Wladimiro has prepared a special signature menu with a mix of "fresh ingredients and exotic flavours," while the Café, an eatery, has laid out a sumptuous buffet. The ITC Maurya has been serving roast turkeys with herbs and chestnuts, along with the traditional Christmas cake.

An hour before midnight on Christmas Eve, churches in the capital will begin their ceremonial services.

The Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gole Post Office, in the heart of the capital will host a vigil at 11 pm, followed by celebrations the next day.

It has made an elaborate crib - complete with baby Jesus with his mother Mary, angels, the cattle in the manger and the star of Bethlehem that has been drawing people in hordes.

The story of baby Jesus and the celebrations, after all, cuts across all divides.