Trees decked with homemade decorations adding to the magic of crisp, cold, starry nights around Christmas might not be entirely lost today, but for the Capital’s Anglo-Indians, much has changed down the years.
With another Christmas round the corner, many in this distinct community of people of mixed British and Indian ancestry recollect the festivities of the past with nostalgia, while others say it is best to change with the times.
A gap too wide
“Christmas is a family festival. It is a time when we have family dinners and parties. But I can say it is not what it used to be years ago,” says Keith Flory of the All India Anglo-Indian Association. “At that time, our families lived in the railway and telegraph colonies. So there was proximity, everybody was around.
But now we are all segregated in different parts of the city and elsewhere. So I can say that distances have played a major role in Christmas celebrations,” he added. Spread across the country, Anglo-Indians make up a distinct minority originating in India and their native language is English.
“About 40 to 50 years ago, the only Westernised community was that of Anglo-Indians. We had our own unique culture, very different from other communities in India and that is why we had our own little world. But today there has been a cultural blend. Now it’s not just Anglo-Indians and Christians who celebrate Christmas, everyone does. So we do not have to cling to only people of our community,” Flory adds.
Over the years, Anglo-Indians have migrated to Australia, UK, US and Canada, among other countries. Those who have stuck around still welcome the festival by putting up a star, decorating the Christmas tree, readying the house for the big day, shopping for gifts and helping each other prepare cookies. “The very first thing that we do during Christmas time is preparing cakes of three types — fruit, plain and walnut,” says Carl Savyell, a school teacher. “Some families even prepare wines at home.”
Many recall that there used to be one long celebration of the festival stretching from the weeks before Dec 25 to Epiphany Jan 6, which was a Christian holiday celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.
The younger generation does not feel the pangs of change, but elders in the community feel Christmas fervour has diminished a little now.