A Record Number Fills the Hall at the 1997 Holiday Ball

Christmas Prance by Celsius Rebello

It is now the nineteenth of December 1997, Christmas the festive season is on. After four whole seasons the tinsel and stars twinkle in glamour and anticipation for once again the miracle of Christmas will revive. And after this hibernation the glee-filled eyes of Santa and Clausia will want to drive their sleigh through . And might he drive straight down Route 1 through Akbar?s restaurant and shake a leg with all the Goans come the twentieth December 1997. Ladies and Gentlemen the countdown has started for one of the most exciting functions to be organized by the GOAN ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY, INC.

The twentieth day of December has arrived . Last minute preparations are under way. The compere is getting ready, the band is getting its list of songs and the committee members have their hand-sets off the hook. Every Christmas dance is splendid but even more was this one with its live band and a whopping three hundred strong crowd.

I enter Akbar?s my car safely parked away. The lobby is quiet, only the ticket checkers, and the committee stand ready to greet you, stub in hand and smile on face. I get past this group of people and enter the main hall . Here was a good helping of "Goan pandemonium since everybody knew or wanted to know everybody. Hors d?ouvres, a mixture of "kebaabs", "chaat" and "chicken tikka" were doing the rounds, rum, vodka, scotch and orange juice in tandem. It seemed a sort of ritual with all new entrants. Each wanted to meet the other and engage in an enthusiastic barrage of recognition. Time and minute whizzed along and with five minutes to the twentieth hour, this twentieth day, things had almost reached a heady climax, when Allan Lobo the compere of the day walked up to dais hand reaching for the microphone. Time stood still, children stopped playing, chatter dissolved and Allan with the microphone on hand threw open the celebrations. The band "Naked Flame" opened up in gusto. People streamed on to the floor. The fox-trot and waltz were now on. Women clad in shimmering garments and lacquered hair were being swirled around by staunch dark clothed men.

Some were more sedate and dancing cautiously, wary of being hit by the swirling lot. I think the crowd was marvelous because with every song and beat the band could conjure, they were ready with step. So the meringue?s and the "cha cha?s", the tangos and the fox trot did the rounds, our enthusiastic crowd now beginning to sweat a little. The band played some real favorites like "Hotel California", "Love will keep Us Alive", "YMCA" and MACARENA.

Time really ticks when you are having a good time and soon it was time for dinner a la Akbar. A little sweaty by now people streamed to the buffet tables. This was a spread of mutton curry, chicken masala,

some "Bhendi" and other vegetarian dishes. On the other side of the table, "Jellabee" an Indian sweet was being deep fried to perfection. Ice cream and "gulaab jamuns" completed the dessert. The excitement and activity had calmed down by now. Maybe it was the food and the dessert or just plain fatigue, or maybe I was mistaken. For the band suddenly pulled up a medley of jive numbers and everybody was on the floor again, this time with renewed energy. While all this was going on, old man time still kept ticking along and soon it was nearing one o?clock and time for some Christmas caroling. Everybody pulled their chairs in a circle and grabbed a booklet of Christmas songs. The members of the band switched places with some of the guests and Allan led the whole ensemble to "Jingle Bell Rock", "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World". Soon the arms of the clock moved to that brooding two o'clock angle. It was time to grab up memories and bid adieus and leave with the next dance to look forward to. The band ended the festivities with the song "Last Dance". We got our coats and moved to the exit hands rummaging for the car parking receipt. and valet dollar tip. I had a wonderful time at this years Christmas dance, but then I always do. Maybe it was just the fact that the band was great , or the compere was great, or the people were exquisite, or it was Christmas or maybe because it was just Goan.