Christmas in Kerala

I have spent the last 8 Christmases in Kerala, and what I love most is the drumming. Once the sun sets it comes from all directions, across the rice paddies and from all corners of the village. Traditional rhythms and song at a very loud volume. It goes all night, and for days. It is what the Keralans call Christmas Caroling, but it is more like Carnival-meets-Halloween. Young men go door to door, drumming, accompanied by a skinny Santa who dances. And then they pass around the hat. The first time I saw this rail-thin Santa, pink face and brown hands, with his belt wrapped around his waist twice, dancing into a mad frenzy, I got a fit of the giggles that lasted for hours. But the rhythms are amazing, and they are serious! Kerala is known for its music, particularly its drumming, as well as for its many styles of dance. Everywhere it's lit up with Christmas lights. Blue seems to be a particular favorite. And folks hang stars in front of their shops and on the front porches of their homes. In mini malls a statue of Santa might play the guitar or the saxophone, in a snowy landscape that could include snowmen, rams, polar bears, giraffes and flamingos. It's Kerala's own home-grown blend of Christmas merriment, and now it feels familiar. Traditional even!

Dayamudra Dennehy