Thiruvananthapuram: The Christmas trees are up, choir
practice sessions are on in right earnest, bakers are planning
their culinary best and the truly devout are immersed in prayers -
the yuletide spirit has already set in and Christians in Kerala
are doing all it takes to ring in the Christmas cheer.
The various churches that dot Kerala's cities and towns have drawn
out their plans for the festival season.
"Like in the past, our church choir has been practising the usual
songs that are sung during the Christmas season. We are having
special practice sessions," said Annie Jacob, a homemaker in
"This time also we have planned special carol services when our
team will visit the homes of all our members. The collections from
our carol service will go for charity," she added.
Most Christian homes are ready with their Christmas trees, the
decorations to go on them and the shining stars that are placed
right on top and outside homes.
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 maximum fanfare.
Catholics are the dominant group, comprising 50 percent of
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.
A trip to a bakery is bound to make you give in to temptations -
most of them have an array of cakes, cookies and savouries lined
Carols and goodies apart, for the spiritually-conscious Christians
like Jose Kiran, the season is a time to observe the Christmas
Lent, where devout Christians forgo all non-vegetarian food. Kiran
said he will be fully immersed in prayers for the next four days.
"We have a prayer camp where fasting prayers are held and I feel
it would cleanse not only one's body but also one's mind. Today,
unlike in the past, I find that the younger generation does not
observe the Lent with utmost seriousness," he said.
Christmas is also the time for family reunions and meeting friends
and relatives. But the poor condition of the roads due to
unseasonal rains is a travel concern for many.
"The extended seasonal rains have played spoilsport because the
roads across the state are in an appalling condition, making
driving a near impossible task. If the rains don't go away, then
those travelling during Christmas season are in for a bad time,"
said K.J. John, a retired engineer here eagerly waiting for his
children to come from the Middle East.
Also, people are missing the morning mist and the slight chill
associated with the Christmas season.
"The morning winter chill, which arrives by November end, is yet
to make its presence felt...Bonfires are normally seen in almost
every household during the month of December... Without the winter
chill, Christmas would just not be the same," said C.M. Kurian, a
farmer in Kottayam.
It is only during the month of December that the mercury drops and
falls below 20 degrees Celsius in the central districts of Kerala.
But despite the rains and the lack of the winter chill, there is
much cheer as the rubber prices are on a high.
"Christmas revelry in households is for long directly related to
rubber prices. When the rubber price goes up, it brings a lot of
cheer," said K. Punnoose, whose main income is from his homestead
rubber plantation in Kottayam.
"In December 2008, the price of rubber was a mere Rs.65 per kg,
last Christmas it shot up to Rs.138 and now it has crossed Rs.180,
which means Keralites can expect a good Christmas bash," he added.
The government too has stocked up liquor vends for the merrymaking
the month will see.
Last year, the state-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC),
the lone wholesalers of beer and Indian-made foreign liquor, had
record sales of over Rs.450 crore (Rs.4.5 billion) during the
month of December. And this time, sales are bound to cross Rs.500
crore, an official said.
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