Despite spending a lot of my time in India over the years, this was the first time I had spent Christmas in Mumbai. The suburb where I am staying is called I.C. Colony (Immaculate Conception) and after Bandra is probably one of the largest concentrations of Catholics in Mumbai. Consequently Christmas is a major festival in this area. Whilst you could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas is not celebrated in other parts of Mumbai due to the paucity of decorations, there is no mistaking it in I.C Colony. Late on Christmas Eve, The Boss and I prised my little niece away from her Hindi TV serials and went for a walk around the colony to see the decorations. The streets were filled with people considerably better dressed than us, the men in suits and ties, the women in their best dresses, the younger ones looking suspiciously like they were heading to a nightclub rather than midnight mass such were the slinkiness of their outfits.
The decorations were fantastic, the streets lined with stars, trees filled with blinking lights.
Each apartment building had a nativity scene set up in their grounds, a local political party having sponsored a competition for the best display. My favourite was the Football themed one, complete with Jesus Mary and Joseph in center-field!
Living in India, I had forgotten that Christmas was coming up. I knew it was soon but had forgotten how soon, as there is very little indication here of the approaching festival.
Unlike in Europe and I am sure in the U.S, the streets aren’t decorated and most shops don’t display anything Christmassy at all.
Even when I lived in Auckland, the Christmas decorations were pretty sad. To be fair it may have changed now as I haven’t been back for 6 years, but there used to be a few lonely stars strung up in Queen St, (the main shopping street) and there was a large and creepy animatronic Santa on the side of one of the buildings. Creepy because one of his eyelids went up and down in a very slow wink as he beckoned passers-by with an equally slowly bending fore- finger, giving the impression of a dirty old man inviting you to sit on his lap.
Asia does Christmas really well. If you are ever in Hong Kong at this time, for example, you must take a boat trip on the harbour and see the massive skyscrapers lit up with different Christmas scenes; 40 storey Christmas trees, or Santa and his reindeer flying around the building (in light form) Last year one of the malls had even built a mountain complete with a working Ski-lift ferrying half-size model humans up and down it’s slopes.
I used to deliberately take a route home that meant crossing through the Lobby of the old Mandarin Hotel so I would be given a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts by the Hotel doorman.
It was only when I arrived in Singapore last week and left the airport that I realised what time of the year it was. It was the herds of red Reindeer gambolling under the Banyan Trees that gave it away.
The decorations here are fantastic and it doesn’t take long to get over the incongruity of Snowmen, Reindeer and Christmas trees in 32 degrees heat. The main shopping street Orchard Rd looks stunning at night with beautiful lights strung all along it, icicles hanging from the trees and outside every mall beautiful Christmas trees, each one different and many of them 2 or 3 storeys high.
In between staring with my mouth agape I took a few photos but my cell-phone camera can in no way capture the atmosphere or do the light sufficient justice.
Guess you will have to visit yourself!