Life & Style

It’s family time in Kerala during Christmas

Every Christmas, members of the Alumparambil family gather at their parents’ home in Kottayam. A 2016 photo of the get-together

Every Christmas, members of the Alumparambil family gather at their parents’ home in Kottayam. A 2016 photo of the get-together   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Christmas is a time of kinship, faith, festivities and food in Kerala

Family photographs during Christmas are often a squeeze with more than 40 to 50 people in one frame with grandma in the middle. But the D’Cruze family in Shanghumugham has it all worked out as they have been doing this for 25 years.

Christmas comes early to many houses, big and small, clustered around meandering streets and lofty churches near picturesque beaches in the city. Homes decorated in red, green, white and gold with brightly lit stars and fairy lights signal the arrival of the holiday season. It is the same in the residence of the D’Cruze family. Come December, they are on song.

The D’Cruze family from Shanghumugham in Christmas colours

The D’Cruze family from Shanghumugham in Christmas colours   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

“From December 23 onwards, in eight or 10 cars decorated with stars, balloons and streamers, we go carolling to our relatives’ houses. Carrying drums, tambourines and guitars, about 30 to 40 of us start at about 4.30 pm and get back to Shangumugham junction by around 10 pm for an impromptu performance there. We reach home by midnight, cut a cake and have wine,” says 20-year-old Dixon Ben.

If it is December, it is the season of family gatherings and festivities that go on till New Year. And the food! All stops are pulled out for dinner on Christmas eve, followed by breakfast and lunch on December 25. The highlight of the holiday season is tables groaning under the weight of meats, seafood, bakes, rice, breads and desserts as extended families sit down for lunch.

“With at least 50 members of the family expected for the holiday season, the cooking begins early under the supervision of an elderly retainer of the family who comes in only for such occasions. He stays at our house and cooks for three days. The piece-de-resistance is the roast duck, marinated and flavoured with spices. In the meantime, the women whip up a range of desserts and feather-light soufflés to round off the meals,” says Renu Philip.

Members of the Alumparambil family, Renu’s huband’s family, come from all over south India to celebrate Christmas in their ancestral home in Kottayam. “Our children, grandchildren and, now, great-grandchildren too do their best to be here for Christmas. With many of them settled abroad, at present, there are only around 50 of us to make merry during this time of the year. Until a few years ago, it used to be 75 to 80 of us,” she says.

Joe Scaria and Lekha Scaria

Joe Scaria and Lekha Scaria   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Mediaperson Joe Scaria recalls a time when almost all of his nine sisters and their families used to gather at his parents’ house at Kanjirappally for Christmas. “There must have been at least 35 people under the same roof then. We go off non-vegetarian food for about a month before Christmas. So everyone would be waiting impatiently to dig into all kinds of meat right after midnight mass,” laughs Joe.

His freezer has already got five kg of duck for the grand lunch on December 25. “In the previous years, I used to make wines with lolika, jamoon, cinnamon and grape to gift to some of my six siblings. In addition, I stock the fridge with cutlets, pork, beef, chicken and mutton. Once every one is up and about after midnight mass, breakfast is always lace appam and mutton stew,” says Joe’s wife, Lekha Scaria.

In Nagercoil, puttu and pork are the highlights of breakfast on December 25. In fact, 27-year-old architect Arvind Rajenesh’s WhatsApp status is ‘porkitect’. “Pepper pork and puttu is an unbeatable combination. And that is the staple for breakfast on December 25 in Nagercoil,” he says with a laugh. For them, the celebrations begin from December 19 when cousins, siblings, uncles and aunts gather at an uncle’s house in Nagercoil to wish him happy birthday. “Two days later, it is my maternal grandmother Rani Jeyasekharan’s birthday and the feasting continues till Christmas. On any year, there would be 30 to 40 of the extended family for Christmas breakfast and lunch at my grandmother’s place, ” he says.

Waves of excitement
  • In many coastal villages in Thiruvananthapuram, residents celebrate Christmas with ‘Jalotsavams’, football matches, drama competitions and the like. In the fishing hamlet of Puthenthope, the residents move to the beach soon after midnight mass. By dawn, in boats and catamarans, they go to sea with their families. While some of them have breakfast in the boat itself, many families have a picnic on the beach. The celebrations come to an end with a tug of war.

In the case of entrepreneur Prema Vijayan, the planning for the Yuletide season is done at family meetings. “On the day of Christmas, about 75 to 100 of us have lunch and dinner at a resort or lakeside venue. We get caterers to serve the food. Party games, songs and chatter make it a memorable day for each of us,” she explains.

Fashion designer Shalini James and her daughter Shreya usually travel to Chavara, Kollam, to spend December 25 with her grandmother, Annamma Baby John. “Most of us reach by December 24 and disperse only after dinner the next day. Along with chicken roast, a family favourite, the seafood on the table is mindboggling,” she recalls

Lourde Amma cuts a cake in the company of her children and their families

Lourde Amma cuts a cake in the company of her children and their families   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

It is the family time that entrepreneur Hema Edwin also looks forward to during this time of the year. “Christmas is at my in-laws’ house in Enchakkal. My husband Prashanth Peter’s 92-year-old maternal grandmother, Lourda Amma, and all her children come over to our place where my mother-in-law, Prasanna Peter, and two of her brothers stay. We head to a seaside resort for lunch and dinner after the cake is cut at midnight,” she says.

Life has its ups and down but celebrating Christmas with family and friends is what the spirit of the festival is all about, they say.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 1:52:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/christmas-is-a-time-of-kinship-faith-festivities-and-food-in-thiruvananthapuram/article30357747.ece

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