Families across the city are summoning their creative powers for that perfect nativity scene, reports Ranjani Rajendra

Boxes are being brought down from attics, family brainstorming sessions being conducted, colour schemes being decided and grains being sowed for that perfect manger. You know Christmas is around the corner when several Hyderabadi families begin elaborate preparations decorating their homes and setting up the nativity scene in their own inimitable styles. From colourful series lights, twinkling stars, clay models to home-grown sprouts for a realistic grass effect the materials people use are many. But it is the traditional designs that are still popular with families in the city.

“Putting up the crib is the most exciting aspect of Christmas. As children we would use all our creativity and imagination to depict Christ’s birth. Even today a month before the festival we sow grains like ragi and wheat which would grow into tiny crops that are then used to decorate the crib. To make mountains we’d use brown paper and dry hay to make the set look like a stable. Once the crib is set we light ‘kuthu vilakku’ instead of candles on Christmas Day,” says Rachel P. a media student, adding, “Our parents always made sure that we used less paper to decorate the crib and encouraged us to use fresh flowers instead.”

What makes the setting up of the nativity scene even more fun for Amy Shwetha is that it is a family affair. “It’s a family tradition for us to put up the crib together. Each year my father brings down the box that has all the decorations and the three of us – my mother and me included – discuss how we’ll put it together. Usually we try to keep the crib as close to how it was originally described in the Bible, but we do change some of the ornaments based on whatever new we get that year. Some of the ornaments we make ourselves – for instance we carve bells out of thermocol etc,” says Amy, adding, “The tree is where we try and experiment more and use newer ornaments and series lights.”

Decorations usually begin on the first day of Advent, which this year fell on December 1, and stay on till the Feast of Epiphany that usually falls on the first Sunday after New Year’s Day. “We try and finish up our decorations before carollers come over to our place. This year I’ve placed the crib outside our home so everyone can take a look. We try and keep the crib as natural as possible, without using too many artificial things. For instance, I sow a few grains of wheat in the mud in front of the stable setting five days before Christmas Day. On Christmas Day they sprout and there is a brilliant spread of green. To make the stable I use dry grass. While I stick to tradition, I do try and introduce something new each year,” says Maria Pavitra, an entrepreneur.

For Sarah Swaroop, the whole idea of using new ornaments every year is exciting. “My mother travels quite a lot and usually picks up interesting ornaments from the countries she visits. It is fun, no doubt to put up the manger and the tree; however, I must admit that my mother is the most enthusiastic about Christmas decorations. We normally have the decorations up for the whole month and it’s a great time to bond with the family. This year my brother is also home for Christmas, so it is all the more special,” she says.