Christmas celebrations in Jatni of Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Christmas celebrations in Jatni is important as this place in Khurdha district of Odisha is home to the largest Anglo Indian population in Odisha. And hence this suburban area emerges as the most happening place during Christmas.

Most of these families settled here during the British rule when Jatni or Khurda Road served as an important rail junction on the Calcutta-Madras main line, with diversions to the holy city of Puri and the vast tribal hinterland of Odisha.

Jatni boosts of some marvelous British-era structures including the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church (1892), the Bethel Chapel Convent (1936), Odia Baptist Church (1926) and St. John’s Church in Wilderness (1938).

Earlier there were countable numbers of Anglo Indian families here. However, over the years many of them have migrated to other states as well as abroad. And hence now only there are around 50 to 60 Anglo Indian families living in the Railway Colony of Jatni. Since the number of families has gone down the Christmas celebrations has also been largely affected, as per some locals.

Of course, there are exceptions to it. Not, all the Anglo Indians have migrated to other places from here, but there are people like Stafford Valentine Redden who returned back to Jatni to live permanently after living for long 20 years in the Maldives. A doctor by profession his love for his roots brought him back to this place three years back. He runs a preschool in the area.

Of course during Christmas most of the Christians, who have migrated to other places, come down here to celebrate the festival with their near and dear ones. Christmas is the season of togetherness and to be with one’s family. This is a time in the whole year when family gathering is given the top priority.

During Christmas, earlier fancy football matches were being played by the Anglo Indians in Jatni. However, now this has been stopped due to lack of participants as most of them have shifted to other states. However, they still conduct some sports events other than a fancy dress competition. Zeal and spirit to celebrate Christmas has lessened here but not wiped out.

The celebration of Christmas in Jatni has come down with less participation of people. But still the fervor for the religious part and special prayers are the same, lamented a local.

On December 24, the Anglo Indians of Jatni celebrate around a community Christmas tree and on the next day they observe the festivities at their homes. On 26th December they do the Christmas dance and hold some sports event as well as fancy dress competition.

December 31st is the best day when they enjoy themselves in a party. They make it a point to add all the popular Christian food items to the menu of this party that includes roast cookies, kalkal (a sweet item), and variety of plum cakes, fruit cakes, steam cakes and ribbon cakes.

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