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‘Joy to the world
Joy to the world
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing……’

I still remember singing these hymns and carols in our school chapel and welcoming Christmas with utmost warmth. The familiar tunes lie in one corner of our nostalgic hearts and evoke the joy of the season. As soon as there is a nip in the air, our city comes to life with the melodies of carols and hymns. The moment it reaches our ears, there is an irresistible urge to join in instantaneously and the excitement about the forthcoming Christmas season intensifies many folds.

Christmas without carol is beyond imagination. The word ‘carol’ has its origin in the old French world ‘carole’ which means a popular circle dance accompanied by singing. A carol is primarily a festive religious and joyful song which is a unique tradition of bringing people together and making them bask in the yuletide spirit. Even on a noisy winter evening, Christmas carols can bring in serenity and help us connect with the almighty. Before the birth of Jesus, these were sung to worship various forces of nature. After the medieval age, these were sung to talk about the birth of Jesus. These songs have varied origins and have a strong association with English roots. Some talk about religion, some talk about colonialism while some are secular in nature.

Carrying lanterns with friends and neighbours in local areas for singing carols is a common sight in some neighbourhoods. The church choirs in different parts of the world usher in the joy of celebration with their unique renditions of Christmas carols. Kolkata’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, the largest cathedral, the first Episcopal church in Asia, has recently opened its doors to concerts. Previously, the only public event that took place within the premises was the midnight mass on Christmas eve. On December 7, apart from the timeless carols, the popular singers of the club circuit like Lorena Dhar, Shane Hyrapiet, Dean Martin and youngsters like Himadri Mukherjee sang some of the new carols like ‘He is the gift’, ‘Seasons of hope’, ‘The Reason Why’ written by various song writers. The new carols in Hindi and Bengali will be introduced next year to bring in a local flavour.

On December 8, the famous Kolkata Symphony Orchestra organized a Christmas Concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral and brought in 150 members who played string instruments. They also performed with other orchestras and choirs and offered the people a musical extravaganza. The Kolkata Community Choir that includes 40 voices including Expats from various countries also joined in to embrace Christmas songs, hymns and carols. The other orchestras which participated are Kolkata Youth Orchestra and DCSDC Orchestra, Kolkata Community Choir and Armenian College Choir. 

The Sacred Heart Church is still continuing the legacy of carol singing sessions. Like every year, they held a Christmas carol festival on December 2 to talk about the love for the lord. Yet again, they proved that Jesus is the reason for the season and transported people back to the calmness of Bethlehem. 

St. Peter’s church at Behala and the church of Epiphany have introduced Bengali carols. According to the authorities, they help in breaking the language barrier and help carols to evolve.

House to house caroling has become a long-lost memory ever since the Anglo-Indians migrated out of the city, but the choirs still keep the age-old tradition alive in their own way. Despite the hectic schedules, the choirs come together to sing choirs hoping that good times will arrive thereby enabling us to look forward to the forthcoming festival.

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