Skip to main content

Kerala Christmas Celebrations: What makes it so special and how differently Malayalis celebrated it

Christmas is not a religion's festival but a feeling that comes from the heart.

Growing up in Africa, my sister and I used to look forward most to the festive season of Christmas. The whole world around us looked as if it had come alive,  decked up in bright red and green. Even our home, being a traditional Hindu Malayali home, always had a beautiful Christmas tree, with its tinkling bells, silver and gold cones & ribbons of different colors along with bright and sparkling balls of chandeliers. Our closest family friends, the Nettikadan family, used to make the festival mindblowing for us. Grace aunty used to come over and bake the yummiest cakes. 


                               FOLLOW MY BOARDS ON PINTEREST

On Christmas Eve, we used to hang up our stockings and have sweet dreams of Santa Claus climbing the chimney and leaving Christmas gifts under the tree. I really enjoyed was reading out Santa's long letter that always concluded with the words, ''Be obedient to your mom, she loves you a lot, so follow her instructions.''  To my little, unsuspecting mind, this was proof that Santa Claus knew how badly behaved I was to my mother most of the time.

Our home in Blantyre used to smell like Christmas - full of cookies, the scent of plum cakes that were homemade and gifted to my parents from Christan family friends and bottles of wine, sherry and so on, again gifted to my non-drinking parents. Unlike today, friends back then didn't judge each other on the basis of whether they drive luxury cars, have corporate jobs, eat beef, drink liquor and so on. My parents were lucky. Their friends were truly friends and extraordinary people, who didn't judge them for the simple life they led or the simple choices they made. An added bonus: There was no social media. 

In the early 90s, when we returned to Kerala, the joyous energy of Christmas in Kochi just blew me away though these were simpler than in Blantyre. From the smallest homes to the biggest mansions, the signs of Christmas played hide-and-seek around us. The sounds of music, the bright stars that sparkle in front of every home, the firecrackers, the Santa Claus or ''Papani'' coming home with a band of dancing and singing children, who were asking every home to contribute some money, and so on. My father's patients, irrespective of religion, brought plum cakes and homemade wines to our homes. For us, Christmas marked the joy of sharing without any shadows of caste, community or religion lingering.

The early accounts of Christmas celebrations among Malayalis in Kerala reveal that unlike today's materialistic display, it was a far simpler than it is today.

How Malayalis Celebrated Christmas in the early 60s and 70s

Think about how we celebrate Christmas today. We probably decorate Christmas trees in our homes, display bright stars and serve the best cookies and plum cakes to guests, maybe with a bottle of expensive wine. But way back in the early 60s and 70s, when I talked to my Christian friends, they speak of an era that thrived on the Christian values of simplicity and devotion.

Made at Home Manger and Stars from recycled materials

You can buy fancy Christmas mangers and stars online today with just a click or visit the neighborhood stores to get more options. In the early 60s and 70s, Malayalis preferred to trust their own creative instincts and make their own mangers and bright colored stars.  Every home had family members pitching in and working hard to collect the materials and build the manger. Even paraffin lamps and candles were used creatively to light up their homes in a simple way. These Christmas preparations also meant ''bonding'' time for parents and children as they used to build the manger and make the stars together.

Malayalam Plays highlighting the birth and message of Jesus

Before TV serials and social media took charge of the Malayali's daily routine, we were a community that loved theater and plays for almost every occasion.  From the start of the Christmas season up to New Year, the best theater performances hosted by the finest theater groups used to keep people mesmerised. The good thing about watching plays is also that it is a democratic form of entertainment - people from all walks of life watch it together and best of all, you can enjoy decent conversations too. 

Choir Groups

A Malayali's love for Choir is well known. Even I loved being a part of Choir groups! Preparing ahead of Christmas with a list of the popular hymns was always so much fun - being selected for this was like winning a trophy! It was a confirmation to the people around you that you are talented if you are chosen to sing in the Choir group. It was a place of honour that you had earned,

Special Devotional Music Tapes by Popular Singers

Besides theaters and plays, every Malayali used to look forward the devotional tapes that released in December, with popular singers like Dr.K.J.Yeshudas singing songs in praise of Jesus Christ. In Kochi, the singer Marcus used to release special music tapes that were a big hit with the Christian community during this special time of the year.


                                  FOLLOW MY BOARDS ON PINTEREST

To me,  Christmas is a more of feeling within the heart. Intellectuals and writers on my timeline still debate about the birth of Jesus Christ, his marital status and relationship with Mary Magdalene. 

To me, Jesus Christ is a gentle reminder that love is the greatest gift that we hold within us, as did His life of sacrifice.  

Jesus, hailed as King of Kings and Son of God, was born in a humble manger, wore no diamonds, gold or platinum but only a crown of thorns. 

What a beautiful lesson Jesus has blessed humanity with. He taught love and forgiveness. And I am yet to learn what it takes to practice these teachings.

For all of you who believe in goodness and love, I wish you a very Happy Christmas. 

Let the stars shine within and around us. Let love always prevail.

And a favourite song streams into my mind:
''Hark, the herald Angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King...''

Comments

Most Popular Posts

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala

Many years ago, when I wrote this post on Kerala's caste system, I had not considered the possibility that my thoughts and my personal journey would receive such online abuse or that I would be seen as some one who was trying to insult other castes. The intention of writing is always to share an experience and not to insult others. My experience of motherhood and marriage would be different from yours. When I write about my experience, it is illogical to shout that as being insulting to your experience because our journeys are entirely different narratives. 

My question is - why do you ABUSE any caste or person here? You are free to disagree but why do you ABUSE? How does that reflect on YOU?

In my article, I shared what trials I went through, without any intention to insult any community.The intention of my article is to question - why are we even exchanging insults over an issue called caste? 

Should we not be aspiring to be above caste considerations instead of abusing each other …

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Meaning, Benefit of Chanting and Who can Chant the Mantra

Mahadmrityunjaya Mantra: Benefit of chanting this mantra nee

There are very few mantras that are as powerful as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. Do read my post: Does Mahamrityunajaya mantra really work?Of course, it does but you need to undertstand the meaning and significance of the mantra first.
This mantra is believed to have the power to remove all sufferings, diseases and bestow the one who chants it with good health and long life. It is also believed that constant contemplation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra can help spiritual aspirants to overcome the cycle of birth and death.
What got me fascinated about this mantra is something personal.  I learned this mantra from my father but it is my maternal grandmother who chanted it all the time and repeatedly told me of its tremendous power to protect. However, I did not chant this mantra regularly. [ Do READ: THE POWER OF LOVE]
But at the age of two, my son was taught some mantras by my mother who explained what it means to him and he becam…

Amazing Signs You are an Earth Angel

Doreen Virtue’s book, “Assertiveness for Earth Angels” brings to life the reality of Earth Angels in very easy way. It’s an exciting must-read! 

[DO READ: The POWER OF LOVE]

Earth Angels have amazing superpowers in: MusicArtsWriting HealingManifesting miracles for others such as controlling weather conditions and  becoming invisible at will.
[MUST READ: A Dad's Advice to the Daughter He loves]
DO READ: ASK MORE, FEAR LESS.

How to Identify Earth Angels by their Traits
To know whether you are an Earth Angel, take a look at their known traits that are explained in this book:


You have a graceful and compassionate aura that inspires people.Your presence “lifts” everyone to happier spirits – it is proof of who you really are.You don’t judge others but you overdo the “acceptance” bit. So, you tolerate even those who show no respect for boundaries.You cannot stand anyone suffering or being in pain. You are constantly “rescuing people” because it is in your nature to want to see everyone happy in …

Top 10 Skincare tips for Summer

Come summer, and we women worry a lot about how the sun lashes out on our skin. True, skincare tips for the summer are plenty but what about the hushed secrets - yes, those tried and tested family secrets that are passed on from mother to daughters? [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]

FOLLOW MY BOARDS ON PINTEREST

Here are some that are totally easy to do. Best of all, these are effective and bring on a feel-good factor in the peak of summer.

1. Replace water with rosewater. It keeps your skin luminous and fragrant throughout the day. It's a good toner too.

2. Cleanse your skin by combining these ingredients - honey, milk, rosewater/rosepetals and turmeric. Add a dash of olive oil and yes, it feels wonderful.

3. Almond oil body baths are a must-have! You will smell delicious all day. This summer, skip all those body lotions & moisturizers! You will love the way almond oil pampers your skin all day!

4. Use a mixture of almond oil and olive oil for your fe…

A Book Review: Custody by Manju Kapur

Manju Kapur's fifth novel – following her highly acclaimed works such as Difficult Daughters (1998) and The Immigrant (2009) – explores the tumultous relationships once again set in the thriving, upper-middle-class colonies of Delhi in the mid-90s. The story thrives against the backdrop of the initial surge of foreign investment in India. The very first chapter of the book begins to enthrall a reader with the couple's love making scene. 

The only glitch is this: it is a married woman having a romantic adventure with her husband's boss. Cheesy as it may seem, the book sets itself apart by diving straight into the troubled waters yet without taking any sides, revealing once again the mark of a true family writer.


Extramarital affair breaks a solid marriage Shagun, the green-eyed beautiful wife of Raman, falls in love with his charismatic, handsome boss Ashok Khanna, who has never been in love before and is determined to possess the woman he now loves. It does not matter to him …

Mumbai Police Movie Review: Prithviraj breaks the typical 'hero' mold, challenges sexual stereotyping

Exploring a completely different dimension in his latest film Mumbai Police, Director Rosshan Anddrews delivers a fast-paced, thriller film after his award winning fims such as Udayananu Tharam, Notebook and others.



To flesh out the script written by Boby Sanjay, Rosshan Anddrews ropes in actors such as Prithviraj, Rahman and Jayasurya to portray three police officers: Antony Moses, Farhan and Aryan respectively.
The story begins with a phone call that Antony Moses (starring Prithviraj) makes to Farhan (starring Rahman) saying that he has solved the murder mystery of Aryan (starring Jayasurya). Just as he says this, there is an accident and Antony Moses loses his memory. From then, Farhan's attempt is to take Antony through people and places that are likely to trigger his memory so that they can solve the murder of their close friend and colleague Aryan. A series of events happen, almost hurtling us towards it.
And I am taking the liberty to hand out trophies for the following:
'M…

Gayatri Mantra as Panchamukhi: Get it right or let it go

Most people do not understand the importance of chanting the Gayatri mantra because they are not aware of its power. It is only when I began to read Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's teachings that I learned how sacred and powerful the chanting of the Gayatri mantra is.
The Vedas represent the breath of God. The Gayatri mantra is the very basis of the Vedas. Try not to undertake chanting the Gayatri mantra as a light endeavor or as a hobby. It has to be chanted with faith, discipline and purity of mind and body. Be steady with your sadhana if you want to reap the spiritual dividend associated with the Gayatri mantra  and never once hesitate once you decide to do it.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba said that the Gayatri Mantra is referred to as Pancha Mukhi, the Goddess with five faces that represent the five pranas or life forces. Here's more on it.


Chant the Gayatri Mantra correctly: Pause Five Times Here are some important things to keep in mind while chanting the Gayatri mantra:

1. Wh…

A Book Review: Samira's Awful Lunch by Bharathi Jagannathan and Preethi Krishnamurthy

A book review for you, dear reader.

At the World Book Fair 2012, I bought a lot of books for my son, Jyotiraditya who loves it when I read out books to him. Wherever we go, I always tuck in two books for him in my bag. And I read out to him whenever he asks.  I make sure I keep two new books always because it is wonderful to see my son's surprise and enthusiasm when he sees it. Today, when we went out and were at McDonalds, Adi suddenly asked me if I could read something out to him. I took out a book that I had bought for him. I wasn't sure if he would like it.

Titled "Samira's Awful Lunch," the book is short, simple and well conceptualized. It is written by Bharathi Jagannathan and Preeti Krishnamurthy. Pratham Books is the publisher.  



The story talks about a problem we, as parents, tackle every day - kids who don't like to eat veggies.

The story revolves around Samira who doesn't like to eat healthy food.She tells her mom that upma tastes like wet sand and…

'Amar, Akbar, Antony' movie review: Clean family entertainer by Nadirshah who tackles child abuse with sensitivity, like a seasoned director

Hard to believe that Amar Akbar Antony is Nadirshah's directorial debut. 
Like a seasoned director, Nadirshah brings together the most popular 'poster boys' of Malayalam cinema - Prithviraj, Jayasurya and Indrajith  - in a well-paced interesting comedy thriller. I liked the scene where the guys get drunk and they talk about how women are 'heartless' and men are all 'hearts.' Their versions of heartbreaks gives you a different dimension to how men feel about heartbreaks and break-ups. 
And yes, Nadirshah pulls it off almost effortlessly, getting many nuances right, especially in music and cinematography. 
'Amar, Akbar, Antony' movie review: Tapping into actors' talent Director Nadirshah has also tapped into remarkable talent while portraying and bringing out the best in 'side characters' especially KPAC Lalitha, Srinda Ashab, Baby Meenakshi and Kalabhavan Shajohn whose performance was both touching and impressive as Jadayu Sabu. Ramesh Pishar…

A Book Review: Trust Me by Rajashree

For years now, I've been hooked to new Indian writers. As an avid reader, I am amazed by the variety and intensity of young Indian writing. The moment I spot a new writer's book, I am tempted to buy it because I love Indian writers and their stories. No two stories or novels are ever the same even when topics continue to revolve around family drama or coming-of-age situations.

Rajashree's debut novel Trust Me had me hooked from start to finish and not because 'trust me' in Polish means 'F..k you'! New knowledge from this book that was almost funny because the way the author presented this nugget of information. 

I completed the book greedily in a day. Of course, it is a romantic comedy about Paro, a protagonist who struggles to survive in Mumbai. She is no beauty but she has brains. She is on the 'healthier' side but she is tempted easily by tasty food though she always vows to go on a crash diet and slim down. She falls for a handsome man and is hear…