As Christmas dawns, there is spontaneous wave of euphoria among merrymakers

If the world has become a global village, its citizens too have become truly cosmopolitan.

The yuletide season has rung in and everyone knows C is for Christmas cakes and caps, carols and cribs, candles and candies, and of course the ubiquitous bells and stars, fir tree and nativity tableau, Santa and his gifts. But look at the season's commercial worth now.

I received an invitation from a friend for Christmas qawwalis, instead of carols, in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi in praise of Lord Jesus at a church in Shimla! British legacy of singing carols has been reinvented in the avatar of ancient Sufi music and it has moved beyond dargahs and sufi shrines to the church!

Great levellers like Diwali, Holi or Dusshera, Christmas too belongs to all now. It doesn't matter whether you are a Christian or not, but stars and lights are on in majority homes as lovely decoration items. Traditional plum cakes are being baked or bought. Family reunions and private parties are on and hosts are downloading special recipes to celebrate the occasion. Lavish feasts are being planned. The sale of Santa dresses in all sizes has reached an all-time high as several kids and gifts stores have already run out of stock and ordered extra consignments.

The month of December does usher in fun in all its elements. There is nip in the air, spring in the feet, joy in the heart and a buzz in the market. People are out on an extended shopping after Diwali and the rhythm of money making is so very obvious. The weather too this year round is mood enhancing and in spite of soaring prices of commodities, ‘recession' is passé.

Innovation is the buzzword and the festive season with all that is new and beautiful is awakening the child in all. And I admit I am no exception.

An advertisement of Hotel GRT Regency caught my eye. “Dine around the world in style choosing from enchanting Egypt to romance of Paris, bustle of London and the free spirit of America, all under one roof. Passport not required” .

A flagship event aimed at synthesizing the city's epicurean allure, “Theme dining – World Wonders” is GRT's way of announcing the new season. And its efficient team – comprising Area general manager K. Muralidharan, F and B Manager V. Arul Murugan, and Executive Chef I. Arumugam -- has indeed turned the venue into a hub of culinary art.

I felt sorry when intermittent drizzle wet the open air venue this weekend even as guests kept trickling in to gaze at the 14 feet high Egyptian pharaoh or take photos standing on the famous bridge across river Thames as tiny tots happily chirped “London bridge is falling down…” New York's statue of Liberty or our very own Taj Mahal shone in the glaze of colourful lights under a dark sky. The theme park indeed made a different setting arousing the ‘wow' factor.

But as most guests opted to dine inside the regular restaurant with rain gods playing truant, I said my silent prayers and chose to take the privileged seating on the white terrace of the Taj where rests the famous dome flanked by the minarets. My wish was addressed as the skies did not open up while I gorged on the food. The difficult part was, however, deciding what to eat.

To choose from 14 different types of salads, half-a dozen soups, a dozen starters, 42 different types of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and 35 desserts, I was for once spoilt for choice. As always, I trusted the chef and non-chalantly he unleashed on my table pinto beans and potato soup along with crunchy veg salad, lequems de tofu and mushroom and pepper salad. It almost filled me but still I proceeded with three different types of tasty rice – the spicy okra fried rice, Mexican red rice, peanut and cilantro pulao – and stir fried olive noodles and pasta tossed in tangy tomato puree as well. Spinach and soya bean kofta curry, broccoli and pine nuts tawa kebabs as accompaniments added to my calories. Yet, I could not ignore the wide array of desserts including zebra gateaux, mango and strawberry mousse, chocolate terrine, Jamaican coconut pudding, ice-creams and much more. My stomach protested, but I dug in.

The alchemy of spices in each dish was distinct. Some were delicately spiced, while some tingled the taste buds, few were bland for authenticity while some others perfectly matched the local taste. This brilliant combination suits the requirement of all and is a good reco for diehard foodies willing to experience the world through their palate. On till mid-February (every Thursday to Sunday), the ticket costs Rs.550 plus Tax per head. Good news is that the structures created specially by Kalai Mani of Chennai-based ‘Celluloid Frame' will remain as permanent fixtures for some time just in case you want to plan a party against the backdrop of Egypt or have a wedding reception at the Taj!

As king of the pops sang, we are the world and have come together. Here is to the spirit of festive cheer!

What's on:

The Gateway Hotel, Pasumalai: Christmas eve dinner (Rs.799), Christmas day brunch (Rs.699) and Christmas night dinner (Rs.500) offers traditional stuffed roasted turkey with cranberry sauce, suckling pig, Christmas pudding, yule log cake and chocolate rum gateau among other things.

Hotel Fortune Pandiyan: Grand gala dinner on X-mas eve and special lunch and dinner on 25th with traditional turkey and plum cake for Rs.550 per head. Kids carnival on Saturday from 3 p.m. onwards. Lots of games, magic show and prizes.

All for Rs 250 per child and an adult.

Hotel Sangam: Special lunch and dinner on 25th includes four different varieties of turkey @ Rs.450 plus Tax per head and for children Rs.225.

Hotel Germanus: Special X-mas Lunch/ dinner with roasted turkey @ Rs.400 plus Tax, Rs.275 for kids under 12 years.

What's up:

Go wild selecting the right gift at city's stores which have carefully stocked some out-of-the-box stuff.

At super markets: Tongue tingling chocolates and walnut brownies and special arrival of swits-chocolates, ready-to-bake brownies and cake.

Archies' Gallery: Big and small with sparklers and glitters, Christmas cards are available in all shapes and sizes. Hand-painted, block-printed designs on hand-made paper is there for organic lovers. For those wanting to earn good-karma, cards by under-privileged section of the society and from NGOs like CRY (Child Rights and You) and ‘Helpage India'. Proceeds go to welfare of children and the aged.

Christmas candles never go out of fashion. High end sets of scented candles with fancy stands range from Rs. 300 to Rs. 2,000. Candles with fruity flavours in cocoons can be floated with potpourri and petals around. Flower shaped floating ones and gold frosted cylindrical candles with a gilt-stone-studded stand are available.

Kutties' World: Santa dresses are moving off the shelf fast. Decorative pine tree with plenty of faux fur-toys and miniature embellishments, festoons, bells, ribbons, snow-flakes, stars, toy-candies and fruits wait to dangle and jingle. Shiny sequined Santa caps with a white pom-pom, battery enabled Santas that sing and dance complete the delight for children.

‘Mavuwa fashion jewellery': Fascinating collection of accessories include cute looking ornaments with charms and trinklets, eye-catching earrings, rings, broaches and sari-pins – all in the shape of Santa, Christmas tree, candies and much more.