Christmas returns to Kochi after COVID-19 halted all celebrations for two years. This year, all the pent-up ideas are taking flight in various events across the city. MetroPlus caught up with a few:
Pappanji destroys the Coronavirus
The highlight of festivities in Fort Kochi is a 50-foot figure of Father Time or Pappanji puncturing the coronavirus with his boot, at the south corner of Parade Maidan. “This year it’s the pappanji that killed the coronavirus” says former mayor K.J. Sohan. The local tradition of burning these figures, he points out, originated with Portuguese culture. The suited-booted-bearded Pappanji, made of straw and used cloth, will be placed at road junctions and torched on the midnight of December 31 to symbolically mark the end of the previous year’s troubles.
Midnight Cycle Ride
Around 300 riders, all dressed as Santa, are expected to participate in the 25km “Jingle Bell Cycle Bell” ride from Edappaly St. George’s Church to Veli Ground in Fort Kochi. This will take place from 9m to 11pm on December 24. Father Siju Joseph, director of Fatima Hospital and a member of Cycle Team Kochi, is organising the ride and says that the idea is “to spread the values of Christmas” and that “the riders can attend midnight mass at Amaravathy and Mandiram churches”. The ride that will end with a cake cutting function is supported by other cycling clubs and the local legislator K J Maxi.
Dressing up the Rain Tree
The century-old, 80-foot giant rain tree at Veli Maidan in Fort Kochi will be another star attraction as it will be decorated with stars, clay bells, balls, streamers and baby Santa figures. The tree will also be lit up from December 25 to January 2, 2023. The Knights United Sports Club, a local body founded in 2013, will take charge of the tree, which has branches spread over 30 feet. Committee member Sajil George says, “We started decorating the tree in a small way in 2013 with 100 serial bulbs. Now we use 50,000 bulbs. The total budget is roughly Rs.8 lakhs. Two generators at Rs.35,000 a day is a major expense.” After the inauguration at 7.00 p.m. on Christmas Day, there will be a mega show of dance, mimicry and light music on December 27.
Lighting up the sky
Benedict Fernandez, Councillor of Ward No. 27, Cochin Corporation, has inspired the people of his locality to create an akash vilakku or sky lantern that decorated their homes during Christmas and New Year till the 1970s. Benedict explains that this was a legacy brought to Kochi from Macao, a Portuguese colony off Hong Kong. Thirty feet high and 12 feet in diameter, the lantern has been made from special cotton cloth, bamboo, coloured bulbs and tubes. Earlier, recalls, Benedict, the lantern would be lit from kerosene lamps kept inside it. The sky lantern can be viewed at Gala de Fort Kochi at Veli Maidan from December 23.
The Nativity, Biblical images, a curated landscape that includes a 40-foot waterfall and a sea are all part of the Christmas Village that will be inaugurated at Keezhupadam in Puthenvellikara panchayat (on the border of Ernakulam and Thrissur) on December 24. Conceptualised by artist Joby Kolarikkal, the sprawling scenery will be spread over 2.5 acres. Art shows, games, food courts and more will be part of the day-long festivities from December 24 to January 2, 2023. “We have been working at it for the last four month,” says Fr Antony Chillittassery, Vicar under the Kottapuram Diocese, adding that there is more enthusiasm for the celebrations this year.
Cochin Carnival procession
The 2.5-km K.B. Jacob Road, named after the first Indian chairman of the British Cochin municipality, is the main route of the Cochin Carnival on January 1. The road is decorated with buntings, stars and lit up from December 23 to January 2, 2023. In the 1990s, the families living on either side of the road would decorate the stretch but it is now overseen by the Carnival committee. “It is a huge affair now,” says Jaison Mathew who heads the decoration committee. “We use almost 800 stars to light up the road and 25,000 metres of cloth to make buntings.” The latter, points out Jaison, will last for a few years and are more environment friendly than plastic. The buntings will be made by women tailors in Mattancherry. By the turn of the year, pappanjis in themed settings will appear on either side of the road. “Lionel Messi and the coronavirus will definitely be among the themes,” laughs Jaison.