India is a multi-faith nation and Kolkata generally enjoys good relations between different religious communities. Moreover, people like to enjoy the festivals of other religions, as well as their own. They can involve decorations and parades, special food, and a few days of holiday. The majority of beneficiaries of CRS projects are Muslim or Hindu, but everyone celebrated Christmas in December. Children at the CRS Education Centres enjoyed Christmas parties with food treats and balloons. Meanwhile, CRS’s staff also gathered together to celebrate the season. On 22 December they decorated the office and donned festive hats, enjoying cakes and treats.
Children from some of Kolkata’s poorest slums were privileged to enter the gates of Raj Bhavan on 14th December. Raj Bhavan, a grand palace built in Neoclassical style and completed in 1803, is the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal. 45 children from CRS Education Centres in Basanti Devi Colony, Bibibagan, Sukantanagar and Hastings were selected to attend a Christmas Party hosted by the Calcutta Foundation, an NGO, in the grounds of the palace. The children enjoyed playing group games, and received gifts and food packets. They also met with the Governor himself, Shri Keshari Nath Tripathi.
St Paul’s Cathedral grounds hosted the annual Diocesan Education Mission Fete on 5th December. Kolkata schools under the administration of the Church of North India put up stalls some offering mouth-watering snacks, others selling goods and gifts; there were also fun games to take part in. The proceeds of the fete are for the benefit of vernacular schools in the Diocese. CRS had a stall which displayed products for sale made by underprivileged women as part of the Empowerment programme. As usual, there was a range of beautiful handmade items such as embroidered tablecloths and handkerchiefs, clothing and bags, pickles and spices.