Chill, cakes and carols…Kerala peps up for Christmas

By Sanu George, IANS

Thiruvananthapuram : With a chill in the air, Kerala is ready for yet another Christmas, which has long crossed the boundaries of caste and creed and is celebrated by just about everybody in the state.

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In fact the drop in the early morning temperature to about 18 degrees Celsius sets the tone for festivities as children begin telling parents that it’s time to put up a Christmas star.

The next sign that Christmas is round the corner is when shops big and small and bakeries light up, announcing that cakes should be booked in advance.

And then churches draw up schedules for special prayers and mass and prepare route maps for carol singers to go door to door singing.

Joseph Thomas, a Class 4 student from Kottayam, is elated. “Last Christmas, our plans for celebrations went haywire because of an attack of Chikungunya fever. All of us were in and out of hospital and I couldn’t even eat a piece of cake,” he said.

“My parents have promised that this time I would be compensated and already the celebrations have begun in my home,” added Thomas.

His school friend Nirmala Ramachandran, a Hindu, too is eagerly waiting to sink her teeth into the delicacies that will be rustled up at Thomas’ home and hoping Santa Claus won’t forget to bring her Christmas gift!

Districts in central Kerala – home to a large number of Christians who make up 22 percent of the state’s 32 million population – mark the event with the maximum fanfare.

Catholics are the dominant group, comprising 50 percent of the Christians in the state, followed by the Orthodox Church with a population of around 2.5 million. Jacobites, Mar Thoma, the Church of South India and the Pentecostal churches make up the rest.

Another reason for cheer this Christmas is the steady rubber prices, which have climbed compared to last year. While last time, the price was Rs.85 per kilogram, this time it has crossed Rs.90. In 2005, it was Rs.67 and six years back it was a mere Rs.32. Kerala accounts for 83 percent of the total rubber production in the country.

In the predominantly Christian-dominated central Kerala districts of Kottayam, Ernakulam and Thrissur, there are a large number of small rubber farmers who own nearly two acres of rubber plantations on an average.

The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC), the lone wholesalers of beer and Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), too has stocked up so that its shops do not run out of supplies. Tipplers see Christmas as an excuse to drink more than usual, as figures show.

“On an average, we sell Rs.60 million worth of both IMFL and beer every day, but on Dec 24-25, we expect the sales to touch more than Rs.250 million. Our shops have extra stocks and we are ready to meet any sudden rise in demand,” a KSBC spokesperson told IANS.

Cardinal Varkey Vithyathil of the Syro Malabar Church, however, has given a call to the laity to abstain from liquor during Christmas.

Father Varghese Thottyil, an official of the Kochi diocese of the church, said: “The call came last month just before lent began ahead of Christmas. The message was passed on during sermons. Moreover our church magazine also carried it. On the whole, we feel the response has been good.”

Meanwhile, all big hotels in the state have announced their Christmas plans and bookings for tables for Dec 24-25 and 26 have started.