The city celebrated Christmas with prayers, plenty of lights, pomp and shopping.
It remained one of the busiest days of the year for most shopping hubs. However, most vendors were left wanting for more.
Perhaps the busiest street on Tuesday was Msgr. F. Noronha Road in Shivaji Nagar, home to St Mary’s Basilica.
Even though a chariot used as part of the festivities caught fire outside Basilica, that did not deter worshippers from flocking there. All through the afternoon, thousands thronged through the line for a chance to be blessed in the church which was first consecrated in 1882.
Taking advantage of the crowd, roadside vendors sold everything from flowers to toys to Halloween masks. Perhaps the most popular item were the candles. For Rs10, one could get two candles and some flowers to light upon entering the church.
Among the vendors lining up the road sat Thilagamma who had spread a strange concoction of oils, powder and herbs in front of her. She was selling Ayurvedic medical products and healing products she swore one could not find anywhere else.
“I have been coming to St Mary’s for several years now. I come during major Christian festivals but Christmas is my best day. I also sell in Chennai whenever I can,” she said before pointing out the problem areas on your face and the proposed cure one can find in her shop.
Thilagamma said made a robust business of over Rs3,000 each day with some of her powdered cures costing from Rs20 to Rs100 depending on the quantity.
Other popular items among those who had come to the church were balloons fashioned to look like an electric guitars, small Christmas trees and whistles. Smaller churches did not see the kind of crowds reserved for St Mary’s.
However, Holy Ghost Church in Richards Town drew many faithfuls.
As people came to pray, vendors outside sold everything from balloons to fresh flowers. There were balloons shaped like parrots and fish. One could also find wooden cribs, little pots and pans in plastic and metal.
Maryann Bastian, who attended the morning mass along with her family, said although she hailed from Chennai, coming to Holy Ghost had become a new tradition for her family.
“We went for mass on Christmas Eve which finished at 10pm and then opened all our presents on Christmas Eve itself. We had cake and wine and on Christmas, we played old Christmas songs by artistes like Boney M and Jim Reeves,” she said. While the events were more tame at other churches, places like Sacred Heart Church welcomed everyone by decking up in colourful lights.
Russell market, which is not celebrating Christmas for the first time in its history, was thronged by those who were ready to do some last-minute shopping.
However, the vendors here still did not do as much business as they usually do. “Long faces are found even outside where carved sweets are being sold. Unfortunately, there are no takers. Compared with last year, the business is cold. Hopefully by the evening, we will see more business,” Mohammad Ali, a vendor, said.
The street adjoining Russell Market was home to vendors selling elaborate Christmas decorations at wholesale prices. From figurines to Christmas trees in green, white and even purple and decorations, the past week has turned the street into a Christmas haven of sorts.
“Our shop will be open for another day. Today itself, we have reduced the prices of our ware because most people have already done with their shopping but tomorrow you can buy decorations even cheaper,” said Ramu, a vendor.
Business was lower than usual in the poultry market in Shivaji Nagar because of the H5N1 bird flu scare.
“We are selling turkey at Rs250 per kg. But people are not coming because of the media and the hype around the bird flu and what happened in Hesaraghatta,” a vendor said. Last year too, turkey was priced at Rs250.