This is by far the biggest festival for Christians in Mangalore. Christmas is not just a celebration on December 25th but to most families such as ours, it begins a month ahead.
Having being brought up in a Mangalorean Catholic Family, December is my favourite time of the year. On a spiritual note, it is a time to prepare for the birth of Lord Jesus during the season of Advent with good will and repentance for our misdeeds. Christmas is a time for sharing and giving. This is a culture and way of life passed on through many generations and it is common to see many families share goodies and other gifts with the less fortunate. While Christmas has a serious message to it, the accompanying celebrations to a lot of fun to indulge in.
Christians world-wide prepare for Christmas quite in advance. The month is December is full of activities. While setting up a Christmas trees, crib, singing of carols and attending church is found as a common practice round the globe, the Mangaloreans have something special to add to this festival.
Here it’s a time for some Christmas snacks – Kuswar. While each festival has its own treats and sweet meats to boast of and the Mangaloreans too have their own ‘Kuswar’ to relish through the season. Making these sweets is a family activity where all my cousins and me got together at Grandma’s place (we still do) would spent each day making different kinds of treats in huge quantities. Watching the large boxes filled and stored was equally exciting. Some of the famous types of Kuswar are Kidiyo, Nevriyo, Guliyo etc.
The excitement knew no bounds during our childhood when the entire family would gather and transform the kitchen into a mini sweet factory. Each member of the family, young and old, would pitch in the preparations. Ours was a big family and to add to the merriment a couple of our relatives too joined us and had their Kuswar made from our house. From the shopping of the items for Kuswar to the final packing, the planning would begin in November.
Cakes and sweets made at home are shared with all near and dear ones. The sharing of Kuswar was also an age-old tradition which is still being carried on. Each family would visit their relatives and share with them the Kuswar. While on one hand it is the spirit of sharing that is practiced on the other it would be an opportunity to taste Kuswar and secretly compare Kuswar made in different houses.
Have you ever thought of Christmas without a star or a crib? Seeing the Christmas stars lined up in each house is truly a delightful sight. It just shouts out that Christmas is here. Each family takes pride in putting out their Christmas star in bright colours signaling that the celebrations have begun.
Likewise the setting up of the Christmas the crib is common here. Homes and churches in and around Mangalore engage in competitions for making the crib. Each year families spend days to set up their Christmas tree and crib. The competition for making the most beautiful and creative crib would be a delightful buzz.
Christmas is never complete without the Christmas tree. Setting up the Christmas tree is an exciting traditional. From the natural trees being used earlier, to the recent fancy ones, the Christmas tree is an inseparable part of the season. There are numerous options available in the market today for the best trees money can buy. And thanks to this, our tree looks better with each passing year.
Taking the joyful Christmas message into each neighbourhood is done by every Church community via Christmas Carol Singing teams. Forming small groups of children and youth these would visit every house in the locality singing Christmas carols. It was here that Santa would dance and enter each house and sweep the children of their feet with his acts.
Churches as well as individuals and social groups in Mangalore conduct Carol Singing concerts in December. One distinct feature is the “Christmas on Wheels” organized by White Doves. Through colourful tableaux, drama and music this troupe narrates the Christmas message at various places around the city. To the youth Christmas is all about parties and bashes. Christmas bashes are organized at various places in and around Mangalore. However off late the emphasis on security by the police department has restricted late night partying.
The epicenter of Christmas is the service at churches. The vigil service is a solemn one and usually done in open air to accommodate huge crowds. My family and many others whom I knew followed this practice of attending the church service and returning home to sit together and enjoy Kuswar and cake at midnight.
Christmas truly paints the city red. Decorations, cribs and stars add to the feeling that Christmas is in the air. Commercial establishments flood consumers with Christmas offers leading the new near. Christmas was also a time for getting gifts and above all new clothes. As kids our parents would involve us in writing Christmas cards to all our relatives, friends and well-wishers. But with the age of computers this activity has ceased completely. Emails have replaced the cards and people wish each other with an email or a phone call.
Christmas celebrations include spending time with the family, decorating the entire house, inside and out and shopping, for friends and relatives. Spending Christmas with the family is very important. The children love to see each other and spend the day playing games and sharing their new gifts and toys that Santa Claus brought for each of them.
Everyone feels fortunate to have their family at Christmas time. The year's most celebrated holiday is during the Christmas week. The meaning for Christmas is to celebrate Christ's birth and Mangaloreans do it in their style.