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26 Dec 2016

Celebrations in Darjeeling continue in traditional way

Amitava Banerjee, HT, 25 Dec 2016, DARJEELING: From the days of the Raj, the Queen of the Hills has always been a seat of traditional Christmas celebrations.
Though the old world charm has faded, Darjeeling with its colonial churches, towers and Gothic architecture reverberated with the sound of carols. Tourists and locals thronged the eateries of the town providing a perfect backdrop for a picture postcard Christmas.
A good number of tourists visit Darjeeling during Christmas. From December 20 to January 10, most of the hotels get good bookings. “I prefer to visit Darjeeling during this time with the intention of avoiding the mad rush of the summers and Puja season as well as to get the true feel of a hill station in winter,” said Dipankar Mazumdar from Kolkata.
The true flavour of Christmas is still preserved in Darjeeling. Most of the churches hold midnight mass on Christmas eve followed by the Christmas mass the following day.
The most happening place in town is Glenary’s, the oldest confectionery in town. Glenary’s, which opened in 1938, was the called Pliva’s after the owners — the Pliva family. After the Plivas left for England, AT Edward, who was the then manager, bought the confectionary and rechristened it Glenary’s.
Ajoy Edward, the grandson of late AT Edward, said, “Christmas means good food and good wine.” From the British days till date, Glenary’s, has been laying out a sumptuous buffet on Christmas eve and Christmas.
The Christmas spread consists of continental dishes like roast pork, roast chicken, gratin, mince pies and plum puddings. The confectionery is packed with Christmas goodies, the plum cake with white icing, the noel cake, mince pies and puddings. Fruit to be used in the Christmas cakes are marinated since the past two months in liquor and recipes are still traditional.
Christmas decoration, the crackling fireplace, waiters wearing bright red Christmas hats with the immortal Pat Boon, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra are the right ingredients for Christmas.
The menu at the heritage Windamere Hotel, famous for its Christmas celebrations, preserving the old world charm is still the same since the days of the Raj.
The spread includes hors d’oeuveres varies; cream of tomato soup; lobster mayonnaise and Russian salad; roast turkey and ham croquette potatoes, cauliflower and garden peas; Christmas plum pudding and brandey sauce; pickled sardine on toast; dessert and coffee.
“We try to keep our Christmas celebrations as authentic as the Christmas celebrations of 1939. There are many tourists who keep coming back just because of this,” said Shubhana Rai, sales manager, hotel Windamere.
Gone are the days of real Christmas trees and Christmas goodies baked at home. “Those were the days when Christmas trees were real and not plastic replicas of Chinese origin. Jazz bands from Calcutta used to play in all the clubs, including Planters and Gymkhana. From early morning, we used to hear the church bells toll. Christmas was more of a community affair with the entire town taking part,” said Shashi Gongba, local resident, reminiscing of Christmas of the 60s.
Though the live band and dancing from the British days are missing, Carol singing, sending Christmas cakes to the local Parish and the destitute home still continue. Most of the high-end hotels and clubs in town organise Christmas eve and Christmas parties.

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