In the states my family is really big on decorating at Christmas. I think this is such a big deal for the whole family because it’s my Mom’s favourite holiday of the year and she will literally transform our home into a winter wonderland. So much so that our home was fit for a royal Santa to say the least. Every year just after Thanksgiving Mom would box up all of the family portraits and knick-knacks and move them to the garage in order to gut out the living and family rooms to make space for Christmas. I continued in her tradition in the states but I have to admit that the most I ever did the past decade in Spain was stick a ceramic Santa Claus atop the television and so far I haven’t done anything here in India. I just can’t get into the spirit so far away from home for some reason and I honestly don’t know why.
So when I received an invitation from the Leela Palace to ring in the bells of Christmas by walking through a life-sized gingerbread house and witnessing the lighting of the largest Christmas tree in Bangalore I said “hell yeah!” Perhaps that’s not the most Christmas-y way to say yes but it was pretty much my reaction! I invited a couple of friends of mine from Sweden who were up for some Christmas fun and something a bit different on a Saturday afternoon and we were off!
First, I should say that I adore the Leela so I probably would have said yes to anything they invited me to but I am definitely glad I experienced THIS. Although there were a few expat families there, the event was heaving with happy Bangalorean families and also with children living in a wonderful home run by the children’s NGO Love In Action. My friends and I looked a bit out of a place without kids…and since my own daughter is “too cool” at 16 for these types of events…it kind of made me want to borrow a kid or two during the ceremony but you’ll be happy to know that I resisted the urge to kidnap.
Prior to the turning on the Christmas tree lights, in true Indian style, there was a bit of a show that included a couple of speeches, carolling and – yep you guessed it – some silly audience participation. I was a bit surprised about the latter at first but I’m starting to learn that MC’s and audience participation are staples at most any event and I’m now pretty much on board with it. And since the audience was packed with kids, the fun and games with the MC included a screaming contest and other shenanigans so I yelled and had fun along with the crowd. The GM of the Leela gave a brief but lovely speech, along with a rather heart-wrenching speech by the head of Love In Action, who shared the story of how a few of the children came to be in their care.
The main entertainment of the day was the Christmas carolling sang by a handful of children, all orphans in the good care of Love In Action. In a million years I would never have imagined that I would spend a Saturday afternoon in Bangalore listening to Indian children sing Christmas carols like Jingle Bells but it really was wonderful and put us all in the Christmas spirit. The children did such a good job and really pulled it off like rock stars. And they all looked so cute, dressed to perfection with the little boys in suits and the girls all in matching frocks and hair ribbons. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Indian children are the cutest kids on the planet. Even my daughter agrees so it must be true!
The Leela Christmas tree is massive. It’s 38 feet high and adorned with lovely ornaments, ribbons and 2,500 lights. My friends and I were pretty damn impressed. And after the tree was lit and the entertainment portion of the event ended, the Leela invited all the guests to a lovely ‘high tea’ with yummy food to top it off. (thank you Leela!)
Now…I liked the Christmas tree but for me the real fun of the day was the life-sized gingerbread house, which is actually a little shop where they sell all types of Christmas treats dreamed up by the kitchen elves at the Leela. Well, okay, they are pretty big elves…and I was fortunate to meet the corporate pastry chef Avijit who is responsible for the tasty treats in the gingerbread house and he shared his favourite Christmas cookie with us and – holy Christmas cow – was it DELICIOUS! I am going back this weekend just for the cookie, I swear. Trust me, it’s that good! If you are in Bangalore you really have to go and try the star-shaped cookies with frosting. It is out of this world.
The whole experience really has made me excited about spending my first Christmas in India. I wonder if Indian Santa delivers gifts wearing a lungi and Mrs. Claus adorns herself with a bindi?
© 2011 Angela Carson