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In winter, there is an undeniable charm and romance in doing nothing and just sitting by the fireplace, sipping a hot cup of tea or coffee and seeing the earth slowing attaining a milky white hue. There is nothing as serene as watching the countryside covered in a sheet of snow. It beautifies everything that it covers. Snow provokes a response that reaches right back to childhood when “showman” used to be every child’s buddy. The chill, the crisp wind and the warmth of relationship all come together to create an atmosphere that makes the heart skip a beat.
Kashmir has a long winter season when the temperatures often plummets below the freezing point. The entire scenario attains magical glow when the earth dozes off under a thick layer of snow. The tall Chinar trees, the mountain peaks, the roads, meadows or even the Dal, everything freezes when the nature takes a firm grip over the landscape. Schools and colleges also shut down during those days. Staying indoors is the better option than venturing out.
The land turns frigid but life doesn’t. Natives devise ingenious ways to keep the chill at an arm’s length. A typical Kashmiri “Phiran” is one such inimitable dress which helps in beating the frosty weather. It is a cloak which covers the body from neck to knee. Made of wool and cotton, this loose upper garment is worn by males as well as females. Phiran for females are quite colourful and has intricate embroideries on them. Only one layer of clothing is not enough. Multiple woolens are needed to keep the cold at bay. Another system which is unique to Kashmiri tradition is to tie a “Kangri” around ones waist. It is an earthen pot filled with smoldering embers. To an outsider, tying something burning so close to the body and that too under Phiran, seem dangerous but a kashmiri knows how to handle it carefully. This tradition was perhaps brought to the valley by the Mughals, now a day’s many modern and safer varieties of “Kangri” is easily available in the market.
Culinary habits change according to the season. As the winter sneaks in, it is the right time to head to the kitchen to cook up some wholesome dishes that keeps the warmth going. A hot cup of Kahva, an aromatic green tea with various spices, is always welcome anytime of the day. A hearty breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Having “Harrisa” in the morning is surely the way to keep the spirit up. Staple of every Kashmiri household during snowy season, cooking Harissa may look like a herculean job as this mutton dish takes around 12 hours to cook but the end result is worth the effort. Just the aroma wafting in the air will be an appetizer and the taste will make you forget the challenges that lay ahead on a frosty day.
With right kind of preparation, beating the chill is not a grueling task.
Stunningly beautiful and family friendly all year round, Sonamarg is the crowning jewel of the Kashmir Himalayas. The mountain resort takes on an extra level of attraction with its guarantee of a white Christmas that brings travelers back to the resort year after year in search of that true fairytale holiday experience.
At the Villa Himalaya for Christmas everything is festively decorated and there always is a scent of fresh fir-sprigs is in the air. The river around the village regularly gets half frozen and the majestic mountains in the background offer the perfect backdrop for snow sledging and gentle walks. Thanks to its protected location, the Villa Himalaya is one of the most snow sure resorts in Kashmir which manages to attract as many guests in summer as in winter. All this is attributed to the friendly, down-to-earth staff and the fact that many guests have made a visit to this mountain resort a family tradition that’s as treasured a memory as sipping hot chocolate in front of a twinkling Christmas tree. The Villa reception is the heartbeat of the resort, where guests grab a freshly brewed cup of tea from the table and play a friendly game of chess beneath the impressive crystal chandelier that hangs overhead from a wood crafted ceiling. Such coziness will be hard to leave, but thankfully a panoramic view of the mountains and pristine river views encourage guests to head to the veranda for some fresh air and a moment of Zen.
A Country Feast: – At the Villa Himalaya we believe that no Christmas is complete without a traditional meal and that is why our chefs welcome and begin the feast with local home baked bread accompanied by our home made honey and jam.
The starter provides you with a very swift introduction of our chef and his team and hints on what to expect from our country feast main course. Thick pickled vegetable salad, home cured meat and something smoked or a warm tomato soup. An interesting story is told by our main course through our unique style of service along with an exceptional taste and quality thereof. The main course is served on large vintage platters to the middle of the table, the way Grandma serves Sunday lunch. This can consist of anything from our very famous roasted lamb, free range chicken and meat balls in red and white sauce. Complementing the meat, traditional sides are served such as fat roasted potatoes, honey glazed mushrooms and stir fried vegetables. These elements craft the ambience and feel of our beautiful Christmas dinner with a very intimate and special setting.
And to seal the deal, the dessert sends you off with a sweet goodbye followed by freshly brewed coffee!!