As Delhi becomes a bigger melting pot of cultures, Christmas is increasingly being celebrated “on the lines of Diwali” says food consultant Marut Sikka. “While the scale of festivities may increase, we can’t become ‘modern’ or move away from traditions associated with it,” he adds.
For advertising honcho V Sunil, Delhi has off late become big on Christmas celebrations. “It was always Mumbai with its greater Anglo-Indian and Christian population. With Delhi becoming a global citizen, people are even celebrating Thanksgiving. More expat crowd is settling here, which has helped people understand other customs and food.”
To keep up with tastes, Sikka, introduced a vegetarian Christmas menu for his restaurants — carving mock turkeys out of pumpkins and turning meatloaf into mushroom loaf. Alice Helme of the newly opened Greenhouse on the Ridge, Olive at the Qutub, says their Christmas menu is following the slow food movement — “keeping in time with the seasonal produce”.
On the other hand, Fab India’s Bim Bissell known for her X’mas brunches since the last 45 years, has kept up the tradition she began with her late husband. “John would dress up as Santa Claus and come on a camel to distribute gifts. After him, my daughter continued the practice,” she says. Her American husband wanted an Indian touch to Christmas, so the Bissells had Rajasthani musicians one year, piano and guitar carols another. “We call it a potpourri Christmas,” she says. So from the famous scrambled eggs to rum punch to invitations using Fab India’s cloth strips — the Bissells’ X’mas brunches have been personalised.
While communications consultant Dilip Cherian prefers to host his Christmas parties at restaurants, it’s the traditional family breakfast that he doesn’t miss.
“My mother fed us palappam made with milk and toddy — what north Indians call appam — with chicken stew. That and a homemade cake with dry fruits soaked in brandy for a week.” He lets in on a secret ingredient that lends his parties the coveted tag. “My peon buses it to a fishery in Himachal Pradesh, and brings back 50kg of the freshest trout the night before the party.”
For Punjabi-Christian chef Bakshish Dean, X’mas has become big in the last five years. “Last year our Christmas sales outdid our New Year sales. The Delhi market is maturing with X’mas turning into an international festival. Delhi largely celebrates the western style. Christmas in other Christian pockets of India is different. My hometown in Gurdaspur, we make a pulao, meat curry and bujiyas — no turkeys or cakes.” Helme, who grew up in Ireland, says she misses the crackers, carols back home, where the festivities start two months early. “But I enjoy the enthusiasm in Delhi,” she smiles.