GUWAHATI, Dec 31 � About 70 years back, Guwahatians used to celebrate the New Year Day of the Gregorian Calendar with picnics, visiting the temples and churches etc. The day was popularly called here the English New Year Day.
According to noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika, the two churches in the then town of Guwahati � the Christ Church at Church Field and the American Baptist Church at Kamarpatty � used to ring their bells incessantly for quite a long time as soon as the clock struck 12 in the night. This was followed by bursting of crackers to signal the advent of a New Year.
The churches used to ring their bells on the morning of January 1 also. Devout Chrstians used to throng the churches on the morning of January 1.
The picnics were organised as family picnics � involving some families of close relations, or neighbourhood etc., or as community picnics � involving more people outside the family relations.
The most popular picnic spot was Basistha. Its serene natural beauty and the location of the Basistha Temple at the spot attracted many picnickers to this spot. The other picnic spots were Ghaguwa and Nazirakhat near Sonapur, Sitajakhala near Jagiroad, Kulsi in South Kamrup, Kuruwa Balichar (Sandbar) on the north bank of the Brahmaputra etc.
Home-made greeting cards were very popular then. School children used to concentrate on making greeting cards from mid-December. On the occasion of the New Year's Day, New Year cakes were bought by the elders of the families from the Panbazar bakeries of either the Sheikh Brothers or the Jamatullah (Golam Rahman and Sons). Those cakes were very beautiful to look at.
Hazarika reminisces that his father late Thaneswar Hazarika, then an officer with the Animal Husbandry Department of the State, once sent a huge cake to the children of the family and its neighbourhood through some messengers. The cake was bought from the Shillong-based AV Morallo. This is the largest cake tasted by Kumudeswar Hazarika so far.
Churches were beautifully decorated and illuminated on December 31 then. The Telegraph Institute Club, known as the �Kola Sahabor Club,� located on a sprawling campus just in front of the Cotton College Chemistry Department, was also beautifully decorated on the occasion.
Members of some voluntary organisations used to collect second-hand winter clothes on January 1 to distribute them among the poor children.
January 1 used to be an official holiday then in the State and as part of the New Year Day celebrations, cricket matches were organised by the Assam Cricket Association on December 31 and January 1 between the Governor�s Eleven and the Premier�s (Chief Minister�s) Eleven at the Judges� Field. On occasions, some other organisations also used to organise sports competitions among the children as part of New Year Day celebration, Hazarika said.
He further said, �I could remember on one or two occasions, the members of the Guwahati Club blew the horns of their cars-around 30 in number-together, to welcome the New Year on the midnight of December 31. That was after 1951, when the club was shifted to its present location.�