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Add Some Sugar to Christmas

December 17, 2011  by: Paulose  Points: 15   Category: Inspirational Stories    Views: 644

In Kerala, South India, Christmas has many interesting traditional customs. They have been practiced there moulded by the regional culture for hundreds of years.


"Take that sugar, Thresia" my mother-in-law told me. We were preparing the rice cake for Christmas(Vatteppam, we call it in Malayalam ). It is a definite addition for any festival.

"Have you added toddy(palm wine) to the rice mix?" she asked me again.

"No mom, I don't know where they have kept it." The toddy can was not there in the usual place. Perhaps, my brother-in-law would have tasted some toddy and misplaced it.

"At last the twenty-five-day abstinence is going to be over!" my broth-in-law Antony was in a hurry to taste the meat which we had ready for the night.

"No son, don't touch it Only after the midnight mass" she was very strict in all these observations.

For twenty-five days most of the Christians in Kerala, in South India, will not touch meat or fish. They will not drink toddy also.

Toddy is a daily drink in our place which is full of coconut trees. Our toddy is exceptionally sweet. People from other places came here just to taste our fresh toddy.

Christmas for many of us means just eating and drinking. What else do we think of?

Chicken and beef were ready waiting for the zero hour!

Rice cake which we were preparing with toddy is the usual addition of a festival. We powder rice and add water, toddy and sugar and keep it for the next day. The next day we pour the dough in plates and steam them in a closed vessel. Once steam comes out, the rice cake is ready.

My sisters-in-law, Celine and Josephine, had gone for choir practice. They were in the church choir.

My mother-in-law was always worried about them. Before next Christmas, the elder of the two should be married.

In India, marriage season starts after Christmas. We were already searching for grooms. One or two men, employed in Dubai, came to see her. But my father-in-law was not satisfied with their family backgrounds. In India, marriages are very sacred and parents are more worried about female children. We have to give dowry and send our girls to good houses. We do not have dating, etc.

At last I found out the toddy can and handed it over to mother-in-law. She mixed the rice powder, water, and toddy and kept it separate. We bake them only in the morning.

"What happened? Still Celine and Josephine have not yet come?" She was more worried about them.
"I told them come early. They have a lot to do, cleaning and arranging things. Your parents will be coming for the midnight mass." She always wanted things to be done in order in proper time. Hurrying up in the last minute makes her mad.

My parents were to join that Christmas with me. My hubby had invited all my family to spend the day with us. First time they would spend the Christmas day with my husband's family.
My father-in-law had gone to receive my parents who were supposed to reach by the night train.

Antony was busy with the Christmas crib and star. He had two of his friends to help him with illuminating bulbs.

The whole village was full of Christmas decorations as most of the villagers were Christians. We could hear the Christmas song broadcasted from the church. Stars from many houses were hanging high in the air waiting for the arrival of the little Baby.

The hour hand of the clock was nearing twelve. By that time my parents and others had come. All were in new dress. My mother-in-law, Celine and I were in new Kanjeepuram silk sarees. Josephine had a new chudidhar dress.

The midnight mass was grand with sweet singing and a meaningful sermon by a guest priest from a Capuchin monastery.

After the mass we gathered at home. My father-in-law began the feast party. Before that we all exchanged greetings with toddy cheers. First male members had their share. They tasted the sweet toddy and ate chicken and beef. After them we, womenfolk, tasted a little toddy and other items.

"Our twenty-five-day abstinence is over. Cheer you all" shouted my little brother-in-law Antony.
"Mom add some sugar to my toddy. I want more sweet" he demanded.

"Yes, add some more sugar. Our Christmas must be sweeter" said my father.



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