On a silent night, thousands of years ago, a miracle was born in a hut, and a star guided three good kings bearing gifts for the baby. This “nativity” scene was displayed at most churches where the midnight mass heralded Christmas.
The Capital on Wednesday was drenched with the yuletide spirit. Streets, tombs, monuments, markets, bakeries and restaurants were choc-a-block with people. The weather also played along, with sunny skies and a pleasantly chilly wind dominating the day.
“We were told that Delhi was so foggy that we would end up spending Christmas indoors huddled near our heaters but as soon as our flight landed in the morning we got a pleasant surprise. The sun and a beautiful wind greeted us and the first place we visited was the historic Qutub Minar where there were long queues for tickets and people jostling each other inside. But we didn’t mind at all,” said Paromita, an accountant from Kolkata who was on her maiden visit to the city to celebrate Christmas with friends.
Loose-fisted citizens spent freely on choice merchandise. Shoppers thronged markets like Connaught Place, Sarojini Nagar and Delhi Haat while shopping malls decorated with Christmas trees had long queues before their billing machines. “I needed a trench coat, and I decided to buy something in red in the spirit of Christmas but the line was too long. I got fed up and decided to leave without buying it,” said Laxmi, a shopper who visited a mall in East Delhi.
“There were sales everywhere but with certain conditions. Like if you bought two shirts, you would get the cheaper one for half its price. I got carried away and spent too much. I exceeded my Christmas budget but I am happy since I got so many pretty things which I would be too guilty to buy otherwise,” said Vinita, a shopper in Connaught Place who was laden with too many shopping bags.
Some others celebrated this special day in its true spirit. “We got the shopkeepers in the market to turn Santa Claus and distribute warm cloths, toys and chocolates to about 200 street children and those working in the shops,” said Sanjay Gupta, Director of NGO Chetna. Some churches even had multiple Hindi and Punjabi services while some opted for a single simple mass which was attended by a large number of non-Christians.
A lot of citizens also made a trip to restaurants serving traditional Christmas lunch. “We served butterball turkey, roast duck and honey-glazed pork ham,” said a restaurant owner. “Oven roast turkey, cold meat platter, thyme marinated chicken with mushrooms and red wine sauce was the offering,” said another restaurant owner.
Bakeries also found themselves working overtime. “Plum pudding, plum cake, plum tart, mince pie, tarts, yule log, ginger tree, ginger star, ginger hut, apple cinnamon cake in the shape of a star, banana bread and so many more things were specially served, including traditional deserts like English cake, dundee cake, dresdner stollen, chocolate yule log, cinnamon stars, vanilla kipfler,” said one bakery owner.
In the evening too it was the same story. “I just wanted a place to sit for coffee, cake and some conversation with my friends after spending hours jostling around everywhere. We went to this nice café where we wanted to go to for a long time but there were so many people that we had to wait for almost half an hour with our shopping bags,” said Impana, another girl out shopping in Connaught place.