There seems to be some difference between X'mas then and X'mas now. The main midnight mass used to be held at the Cooperage, in the open, under a canopy of stars, Cardinal Gracias presiding. The entire consular corps from the Catholic countries would attend the mass, sitting in chairs, in the front rows. There were tickets for the chairs, though they were described more as reservation fees.
On the morning of X'mas Eve, Cardinal Gracias would personally come to The Times of India office with an advance copy of the sermon he was to deliver at midnight. It was always well phrased, the sentences beautifully rounded, almost Churchillian.
If you think politicians are eloquent and can sway masses with their voices, you should hear religious leaders, whether Catholics, of the Islamic faith, or Hindu pandits reciting in sonorous Sanskrit.
But to come back to the past, X'mas shopping was real X'mas shopping, not an extension of Diwali sales. The shop windows were filled with white cotton wool and mini reindeer and X'mas cakes had Santa Clauses on top. There were also a few real Santa Clauses, or dressed-up Santa Clauses, in the shops. Akbarallys, which has developed into Bombay's No. 1 department store chain, has carried on the tradition, a salesman dressing up as Santa Claus during X'mas then same on doubling as Chacha Deepak during Diwali. I think it is about time Akbarallys expanded its chain beyond Bombay. Perhaps, in the new year.. 1987.
The hotels were there with their X'mas dances, but not so many hotels. Just Taj and Green's and Ritz and Ambassador and Juhu Hotel. And it cost about Rs. 100 per couple for an X'mas gala at the Taj, complete with food, Ken Mac's band, or Chic Chocolate's paper caps, crackers, whistles, small gifts, drinks would be extra.
And Rs. 100 was a lot of money. How these hotels charge, we would say.
The weather was a little cooler, but that may be only my imagination. But at least it used to get cold around X'mas time and not a week before X'mas and then warm up again.
And New Year was an extension of X'mas, it all came during the X'mas week.
At midnight, the trains at VT would blow their whistles, and ships at sea, and the lights would go off in the hotels.
There has been one strange development over the years. In those days, X'mas was a celebration for everybody, not just Christians. And New Year was a very Christian event, not for everybody. Now it is the opposite. Though that may also be just my imagination.