Nostalgia and a waltz in Sion

Updated: 05 January, 2017 13:53 IST | Shraddha Uchil |

With Christmas just a week away, Sion's Everard Nagar readies to play host to one of the oldest surviving Christmas dances in Mumbai. Shraddha Uchil steps back in time

Celebrity hairstylist Savio John Pereira and his wife Priya, both residents of Everard Nagar, attend the Christmas dance every year

Sion's Everard Nagar is preparing to play host to one of the oldest surviving Christmas dances in Mumbai. This formal dance, which has been held since the early ’70s, sees party-goers coming in from all over the city. Over the years, it has set the stage for several iconic bands, as well as many a blooming romance.

When you try picturing a traditional ball, the images that come to mind are likely those of Cinderella flitting across a grand ballroom in the arms of her Prince Charming. For a real-life version of this, all you have to do is head out on Christmas night to one of the few open-air venues across the city that hosts such a do.

In recent times, however, this phenomenon has become even more rare, with several open-air venues shutting down. Among the ones that have managed to survive is the Everard Christmas Dance, held annually on the grounds of Everard Nagar Cooperative Housing Society in Sion.

One year, close to 1,200 people showed up for the popular event

"The society came into being in 1971, but construction was completed in 1975. The Christian community predominantly occupied the apartments, and the youth group decided to form a recreational club sometime in 1973. The first Christmas dance was held soon after, and it became popular with youngsters as — even then — it was one of the few open-air formal events in the city, and the entry fee was only Rs 40," says Raymond Nogueira, president of the Everard Welfare Association.

Memories galore
Dr Charles Pravesh Noronha, who now runs a music school in Thane, used to be the emcee at the Everard Christmas Dance back in the '80s. "At that time, I was paid R15 for the gig. I hosted the event year after year, until I moved to Thane in 1997. We used to have wonderful bands playing back then — Crimson Rage, Atomic Forest, Tequila, the works. There was even an in-house band called Friendly Squad," he reminisces.

Nogueira agrees, adding that some of the best bands in Bombay used to vie to play here. He says, "We used to be strict about the dress code back then. The men had to be in suits and dress shoes, and the ladies had to wear formals too. It didn't matter — people would come in from as far as Ambernath and Karjat." He shares that in 2007, around 1,200 people showed up, leaving no room on the dance floor.

So sought after were the festivities, according to Noronha, that young men who couldn't afford to buy their own suits would end up borrowing a coat from someone already at the dance, just so they could enter the venue.

Denis and Glenda Nogueira had their first date at the Everard Christmas Dance in 1981 and got married two years later

Love is in the air
The Everard Christmas Dance has also been privy to many a blooming romance. The setting, after all, has always been perfect — melodious tunes wafting through the air as couples waltzed under a velvety blue sky strung with stars. Denis and Glenda Nogueira had their first date at the dance — it was a blind one, too.

"This was in 1981, when I had just returned home from the Middle East, and all my former girlfriends had left for greener pastures," says Nogueira, chuckling. "I told my sister I wouldn't be going for the dance that year because I didn't have a partner, which is when she said she could ask a colleague. That colleague turned out to be Glenda."

"We'd never met before, but on Christmas Day, I went over to her house and had dinner with her family. I still remember what she was wearing — a black blouse and a lovely red skirt, with a bright red face to match it," he gushes.

Don Britto proposed to then girlfriend Yoko Rai at the dance in 2012 

The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. The couple has been married for a solid 33 years now. "It used to be a family tradition to attend the dance every year. Although we moved to Australia in 2004, we will be in Mumbai for the dance this year," says Glenda excitedly. Yet another couple found its happily-ever-after moment at this dance, albeit recently. Borivali residents Yoko Rai and Don Britto started dating in 2004, and attended their first formal do as a couple the year after. "We made it a point to go every year with a group of friends.

One year — 2012 to be precise — I realised something strange was going on. Don kept running off, saying he needed to use the washroom. I was a little annoyed with him," says Rai. She adds, "A little later, I saw him take the mic and start singing the classic, Have I Told You Lately. Then he went down on one knee and proposed. Turns out every time he'd run off, he'd been trying to coordinate with the emcee and the band to fix the right time to do this."

Challenging times
Raymond Nogueira remembers how earlier, the dances would go on till the wee hours of the morning. "We would have two bands playing through the night. However, in the last decade or so, we've had to wind up the festivities early due to the loudspeaker deadline," he says. There have been only two instances when the dance had to be cancelled. The first was in 1992, when it saw abysmal sales following the riots. "The second was following the 26/11 terror attacks. There was no way we could be dancing when our countrymen had lost their lives," recalls Nogueira.

Everard Nagar residents Gordon and Jennifer Darr at a dance

It's this thoughtfulness and sense of kinship that makes people want to keep coming back. Priya Pereira, who has spent most of her life in Everard Nagar, says, "Of course, there is a charm to dancing in the open. But, I've always felt that this dance represents the true spirit of Christmas — we could attend festivities anywhere else, but why do that when we can celebrate with everyone we grew up with? To us residents, it's like a big house party."

ON: December 25, 7 pm 
AT: Everard Nagar CHS, Eastern Express Highway, Sion (E). 
CALL: 9702204048
COST: Rs 1,000

You can also head to

  • Bandra Gymkhana
    CALL 26423521
  • Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana
    call 26497531
  • Orlem Christmas Ball CALL 9821934217

First Published: 17 December, 2016 08:43 IST

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