Amid tight security, Kolkata put on its Christmas robe Tuesday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with midnight masses, cakes, cookies, candles and carols.
The celebrations embraced both Christians and non-Christians, with the winter chill adding to the merriment and a spirit of wanderlust that saw huge footfalls at the tourism hot spots like the city zoo, Victoria Memorial Hall and the Indian Museum.
At the stroke of the midnight hour (Monday-Tuesday), St. Pauls Cathedral in Kolkataand other churches across the state - decked up with colourful festoons, paper stars, streamers, Christmas trees, twinkling lights - drew huge crowds cutting across religious lines.
Daylong prayers were held in all the churches since midnight on ChristmasEve.
Mother House - the global headquarters of Missionaries of Charity (MoC) founded by Mother Teresa - welcomed hundreds of visitors, who started pouring in since morning.
The city's famous heritage address - Bow Barracks, inhabited by Christians and Anglo-Indians - bustled with activity and the aroma of home-brewed wines and cakes, songs and dances, as children and the aged revelled in festivities, which had started well ahead of Christmas.
Carnivals and music festivals, football and hockey tournaments and unions of the families with their loved ones, who have travelled miles to be here for the occasion, made it the best of times at the brightly lit row of red brick buildings that is the Bow Barracks.
A few kilometres to the south, the fashionable Park Street - oozing a British era charm and famous for Christmas celebrations - remained wide-awake since Monday night, with its famous shops and fine dining restaurants decorated with Christmas trees, models of Santa Claus, colourful ribbons and lights.
Baking cakes from good bakeries is another tradition among the Christians over here. "We buy or make all the ingredients at home and then give orders to a good bakery to bake it," Herbert Pradip Biswas told IANS.
Most of the city hotels and restaurants have included in their menu sumptuous turkey dishes and delicious cakes, while the iconic bakeries like Nahoum's and the famed tearoom Flury's too have lined up a wide variety of their wares.
People visited their relatives, exchanged greetings and gifts, while children and youngsters organised picnics and community feasts.
"I come to the city every year on Dec25. The atmosphere is intoxicating. Kolkata has its best climate during this season. It is a day for outing with your beloved or family," said Kanika Dey, a young housewife.