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Christmas on call: your guide to festive cheer in Delhi

Glittering ornaments, sinful feasts, a jolly fat man and all the things that bring ye cheer... We've spared no effort to make your festive season truly happy and joyous.

brunch Updated: Dec 21, 2013 19:19 IST
Hindustan Times
Christmas,Xmas,Christmas decorations

The thing about Delhi is that it says goodbye to every year with style. The city is at its most beautiful – it’s as cold as cold can get without being biting and bitter. The malls, the markets, even the kinara dukaans are dotted with red and green, brimming with fake Christmas trees and sparkly plastic baubles. There are piles and piles of plum cake, there are children humming carols while skipping around with Santa hats on their head, and there is just so much excitement in the air.

We, at Brunch, are going to make the most of the holidays this time and party unabashedly. We bring you where and how. This Christmas, eat, drink and spread the cheer.

Dear readers, we wish you a merry Christmas!

Where to go for midnight mass?

To some of the oldest churches in the city!

In 1579, Jesuits from Goa were invited by the Mughal emperor Akbar to Agra where they set up their mission. In the 17th century when the capital shifted to Delhi, the city’s first churches were built. In the next 100 years, these would be destroyed and later restored.

The Christmas programmes begin with Advent, which starts anywhere between November 27 to December 3. But the real celebration begins on the 22nd, with a lot of carolling and choir singing. Jesus was supposed to have been born at midnight, so the Christmas mass starts a little before – keeping ‘vigil’ for Christ to be born.

St James’ Church

Kashmere Gate

The oldest surviving church in Delhi was built in 1836 by part-Scottish, part-Rajput Col James Skinner (lying wounded in battle, he vowed to build a church if he survived).

11.30pm: A ‘simple’ mass attended mostly by non-Christians.

St Mary’s Church

Chandni Chowk

A chapel that stood here was destroyed during the 1857 uprising. This church was built in 1865.

10pm: Christmas qawwali in a mix of Hindi and Punjabi.

11pm: Carol singing in English and Hindi.

11.30pm: Service in Hindi.

Sacred Heart Cathedral
Gol Dak Khana
The oldest church in New Delhi and the largest Catholic church in the city, it was built 70 years after St Mary’s.
11pm: Carol singing at St Columba’s grounds.
Midnight: Vigil service.

The Cathedral Church of the Redemption
North avenue
Built to meet the spiritual needs of British officers in Delhi, it was opened in 1931. It’s the only other church in the city with a pipe organ (to hear it play, head to the church on Christmas morning at 8.30 am or for any other Sunday service).
11.45pm: Mass in English.

Call a Santa

(at home or even to a party )

Last week, we called Santa to the Brunch office. And this nice big gentleman (seen at left) turned up with a bag full of presents – a dinky Christmas tree, shiny plastic ornaments, cupcakes, an extra Santa suit and more. There was also a handwritten letter – which said ‘You must take your colleagues out to lunch if you want to be on the good list next year!’ We interviewed Mr Claus and he was quite funny: do you eat?

Plum cake, cookies, milk. But I am thinking of going on a diet...

How do you get into people’s homes in chimney-less Delhi?

Through the door? I don’t fit in chimneys anymore...

Three ways to get off the naughty list:

1. Brush your teeth twice a day.

2. Don’t wake up late and miss school.

3. Bathe regularly (though, I don’t).

This is Call Santa Home, a Christmas initiative by Order Happiness, a small service providing company where you can literally buy happiness. Call them today to book a Santa for the 24th or 25th for 30 minutes for Rs 2,950.

Call: 95407 08885


How to decorate a Christmas tree too many trees look lopsided, characterless or just plain blingy

People will tell you that there’s no wrong way to decorate a tree. But look to the giant eyesores in hotels (all pomp and no personality) or in living rooms that look like the owners are colour blind! Shalini D’Silva puts up a lovely one at Bungalow 9, Mumbai. It’s grand, yet intimate. Here are her tips:

* Think of proportions when you’re shopping. 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. I’ve said, “Sorry, angel, I’m going to have to put you back” in shops that had badly proportioned figurines.
* Segregate ornaments by colour, type and size. Group the reds, golds, blues, bells, bows, cherubs, and so on before you start.
* Put your prettiest ornaments on top (it gets the maximum focus), or in a viewer’s direct line of sight. The clunkier decorations can hang at the bottom to cover unsightly gaps between the branches.
* Ornaments have become very sparkly now, but families who have been decorating for years will have less glittery stuff in the mix. Go as blingy as you like, so long as it reflects your personality.
* Traditional trees in homes have a nice mix of everything – without a theme. But if you want yours to have just purple decorations, who am I to judge?
* Zoom in and out. Take several steps back every few minutes so view your tree from a little distance. You’ll find the holes, the lopsidedness and imbalance of colour or sizing that you’d have missed at close range. If you do have holes, you could always cover them up with cotton!
* A tradition I want to start is to request friends and loved ones to contribute one ornament each (no matter how old or worn out) from their tree, which I could call my own – they’ll be stories for the children I’ll have.

The real thing

If you’re not in the mood for a fake plastic tree (which can cost anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 15,000) get a live tree from any nursery near you (it’s illegal to chop trees). Padam Chand Saini of Joginder Nursery says, "Most coniferous plants will work as Christmas trees and will cost anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 2,000. you’re lucky enough to have a garden, your tree can grow more than twice as tall as you, otherwise it’ll stay at about 5-6 feet tall." Here are three Christmas favourites:

Juniperus: The foliage is compact and the small leaves can easily be pruned into the perfect shape. If you want one that will grow taller over time, get Juniperus chinensis.

The Cook Pine (Araucaria Cookii): The horizontal branches are perfect for hanging decorations. You can keep it indoors for a few weeks. It can grow up to 7 feet tall in a large pot.

Morpankhi (Platycladus Orientalis): Found in nearly every Indian garden, it’s usually treated like a shrub but it’s conical and can grow up to 50 feet tall!

Spreading the warmth

As the winter gets colder, pull out some old clothes from your closets to make the season cosier for everyone.

Aid street dwellers

The Uday Foundation’s Woollens Donation Drive is one of the biggest in the city. They collect warm clothes and blankets for underprivileged children as well as people living on the streets and outside hospitals in Delhi.


A helping hand

The Happy Feet Project is a growing Facebook community. It’s a reminder to keep at least one pair of socks in your bag at all times – so every time a kid asks you for money or you see a family shivering under a flyover, you hand it over to ensure there’s one more person with happier feet, instantly!

Where: Anywhere


For animals
Old sacks, blankets or coats will keep the city’s animals warm.
Where: Circle of Animal Lovers

Choirs of the city

The best sound of music in Delhi

You won’t be able to see too many performances of Delhi’s best choir groups on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day because many singers are expats who go back to their respective countries. But just until last week, Gospel was the flavour of the month.

The women dress in bright saris, the men in churidar-kurtas. There are high school students and people in their seventies, and each person sings with equal gusto.
Begun in 1994, The Capital City Minstrels (CCM) meets every week for two hours at the Hungarian Culture Centre. This serves as the perfect stress buster for Reuben Israel, who has been with CCM for six years. His day job as a book publisher never keeps him too busy for choir practice. He’s a bass singer. “Men usually are the bass singers,” he says. “Look at the choir as an instrument being played by somebody. Left to itself, a choir can sing, but it’s the conductor who helps to bring in one group at a time (each choir has different groups of singers or voices: tenor, soprano, alto and bass). So when you’re interpreting a choir, you can’t have each person interpret it their own way. The conductor is the one who knows when a dynamic voice should become soft and vice versa.”

The four-year-old Delhi Chamber Choir, however, takes only trained singers and musicians, because it’s easier to work with them on the finer points of singing. “Our music is slightly complicated in the sense that we’re more into classical music and we also do a lot of a cappella singing,” says Isabelle Jaitly, administrator for the Delhi Chamber Choir and a former journalist who’s now into research. The Delhi Chamber Choir has two (sometimes three) main programmes a year. They meet once a week for two-hour sessions.

The oldest choir in the city is the Delhi Christian Chorus, which was formed in 1964 – they will celebrate their golden jubilee for the next two years. Royall S Mclaren, the choir’s current director, has been part of the group for 17 years. The best part about his group, Mclaren says, is their wide variety of songs. “We have a collection of about 1,200-1,300 songs and hardly ever repeat any song that we sing. The music of the likes of Mozart and Bach is everlasting.” This huge group of about 50 people that meets once a week to practice for almost 90 minutes has eight musicians playing the piano, trombone, trumpet, flute, bass guitar, cymbals...

Pramod Kingston, who is a piano player and teacher, always felt that churches didn’t play enough classical hymns (pop versions are more popular). And so, in a bid to draw younger people to the classical, he began the Canticle Choir in 2005. “The response from youngsters was more than I anticipated; they took to it rather well,” he says. People got to know of, and subsequently joined the choir by word of mouth. Some who have joined Kingston were part of church choirs.
Most choir singers say they sing for love, for the joy it brings them and for the people they sing for. Are you ready to step up the tempo for the festivities?

The best carols

If you like the classics…

O Come All Ye Faithful

Originally known as Adeste Fideles, it consisted of four Latin verses. You can sing the first and third verses from its Wiki page in English.

Silent Night

UNESCO listed this carol, composed in 1818 in German, on its Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

We Three Kings of Orient Are

Composed by a priest, it’s about the Three Wise Men visiting Bethlehem.

If you like a peppy beat

Joy To The World

Based on Psalm 98, this can be quite exhausting to sing.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

This is famously mentioned in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, itself a seasonal classic.

Good King Wenceslas

Covered (sort of) by Hugh Grant in Love Actually (he sings it with his detective for the little girls who answer the door).

The easiest to remember

Deck The Halls

This is Welsh, from the 16th century; if you forget the lyrics just sing fal la la la, la la la la, every second line.

Little Drummer Boy

The Trapp Family Singers (of the Sound of Music fame) originally recorded this in 1955.

The ones you’ll definitely hear in church

O Holy Night

The hardest to get right, O Holy Night, rises to a marvellous crescendo. This is the one we’d love to be able to get right.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

This is kind of solemn, but has a catchy ring to it.

DIY Christmas feast best of Christmas is in its food, merry eating!

Turkey: 1, Cayenne pepper: 10gm, Cumin powder: 8gm, Coffee powder: 8-10gm, Liquid glucose: 100gm, Honey (preferably forest): 100gm, Smoked paprika powder: 10gm, Brown sugar: 30gm, Worcestershire sauce: 30ml, Dark soy sauce: 10ml, Orange zest: 1 no, Juice of one orange, Hickory barbecue sauce (American Garden): 50ml, English mustard: 1tbsp, Sea salt: 10gm, Pepper: 5gm
For Apple Glaze: Red apple: 500gm, Apple cider vinegar: 150ml, Grain sugar: 60gm, Rosemary: 2-3 sprigs, Jumbo garlic: 2-3 cloves

* Pat turkey dry with a paper towel.
* Rub it generously with sea salt, sprinkle pepper all over it.
* Refrigerate the turkey in a ziplock bag for 1 hour at 5 degrees C.
* Mix the ingredients from 2 to 14 (cayenne pepper to English mustard) in a bowl and marinate the turkey for 4-5 hours. Put it into the ziplock bag and refrigerate overnight.
* Next morning, once it reaches room temperature, put it in a preheated oven at 220 degrees C.
* When the turkey acquires some colour, cover it with silver foil and put it back in the oven for 4-5 hours.

For Red Apple Glaze:
* Caramelise sugar in a saucepan, add chopped red apple and stir.
* Add rosemary and garlic, followed by apple cider vinegar.
* Turn off the heat once the mixture reaches a syrupy consistency; then tightly strain it at room temperature.
* Take the turkey out of the oven, slice and pour the red apple glaze over it.

(Recipe courtesy chef Jiten Singh, at Amour - The Patio Restuarant, Hauz Khas Village)


For the pastry: Plain flour: 240gm, Vegetable shortening: 60gm, Cold butter: 60gm, Juice of 1 orange, Pinch of salt, Mincemeat: 350gm, icing sugar (for dusting)

Mixture: Ruby port: 60ml, Soft dark brown sugar: 75gm, Cranberries: 300gm, Ground cinnamon: 1 tsp, Ground ginger: 1 tsp, Ground cloves: ½tsp, Currants: 75gm, Raisins: 75gm, Dried cranberries: 30gm, Finely grated zest and juice of 1 clementine, Brandy: 25ml, Almond extract: 3 drops, Vanilla extract: ½ tsp, Honey: 2 tbsp


* In a large pan, dissolve the sugar in the ruby port over gentle heat. Stir in the cranberries. Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves, currants, raisins, dried cranberries, zest and clementine juice. Simmer and cook until the fruit has broken down and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Add brandy, almond extract, vanilla extract and honey and mash the mixture into a paste.

* Once you are ready to make your mince pies, get out a tray of miniature tart tins, each indent 4.5cm in diameter, along with a 5.5cm fluted, round biscuit cutter and a 4cm star cutter.

* Measure the flour into a shallow dish and add vegetable shortening and butter, put in the freezer for 20 minutes.

* In a separate bowl, mix orange juice and salt, chill in fridge.

* Blitz the flour mix in a food processor till it becomes a pale pile of porridge-like crumbs. Pour juice into it.

* Make small tarts from this dough.

* Wrap each disc in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.* Roll out thin discs (you want a light pastry case, but one sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat).

* Out of each rolled-out disc, cut out circles wider than the indentations in the tart tins, add a teaspoon of mincemeat.

* Cut out your stars with a star cutter and place the tops lightly on the mincemeat. Bake for 10–15 minutes.

* Remove from the oven, prising out the little pies straight away and letting the empty tins cool down before you start putting in the pastry for the next batch.

* Dust some icing sugar over it by pushing it through a tea strainer, and serve the pies

(Recipe courtesy Chef Ashis Rout, Courtyard by Marriott Gurgaon)

Dry red wine: 150ml, Brandy: 15ml, Cinnamon: 2 pieces, Whole cloves: 5, Whole star anise: 1, Orange zest: 2 wedges, Sugar: 1 teaspoon
* In a clean saucepan over low flame, add all the ingredients, except brandy.
* Stir until sugar is dissolved. Do not bring to a boil. Add brandy and remove the flame.
* Keep on room temperature for 20 minutes so that the flavours are transferred to the wine.
* Heat on low flame and serve the mulled wine


Brandy or rum: 40ml, Sugar syrup: 10ml, Milk: 50ml, Egg yolk: 1, Freshly ground nutmeg


* Pour brandy syrup, milk and egg yolk into a cocktail shaker, fill with ice cubes, shake.

* Strain into a highball glass with ice cubes.

* Sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg.

Your Christmas TV guide
No plans? Stuck at home? Make yourself some mulled wine or eggnog (recipes above) or a big mug of hot chocolate and cuddle up with the telly eve

The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

Santa Claus aka Scott Calvin has been mysteriously losing weight, and to stay fat and jolly, he must find a suitable Mrs Claus. Plus, his son Charlie has landed on the year’s "naughty" list. So, leaving a substitute Claus at the Pole, he heads home. But when the substitute institutes strange redefinitions of naughty and nice, it’s up to Scott to save Christmas.

Where: Zee Studio, 10.30 pm Day

Four Christmases (2008)

Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) make elaborate excuses to avoid their families during the holidays, but this year their usually foolproof plan goes bust and they have to visit Brad’s father, then Kate’s mother, and then Brad’s mother and, finally, Kate’s father, thereby celebrating four Christmases.

Where: HBO Defined, 10.50pm Wintery film

Happy Feet (2006)

In Antarctica, the Emperor Penguins express true love with a special song. But misfit Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) cannot sing, instead he tap dances. The colony blames the tuneless penguin for the dwindling fish. So Mumble and his friends set out to find the true cause of the famine. One of the cutest animation film ever – it’s got song-and-dance penguins and an environmental message.

Where: WB, 3.40pm (December 25)

For Christmas listings on cool parties around town: Pop-up Window.

For Christmassy things to do with your family and pets: Pop-up Window.

COMPILED BY: Shreya Sethuraman, Saudamini Jain, Mignonne Dsouza, Amrah Ashraf, Rachel Lopez

From HT Brunch, December 22

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First Published: Dec 21, 2013 15:14 IST