As the calendar turns to December, different church groups head out at night, going door-to-door singing carols and spreading the message of Christ’s birth. Among these groups of carollers are the youth of the St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church in Santacruz, who gather to spread the Christmas cheer in the homes of their parishioners.
An old tradition, it is a time to visit relatives and friends and spread the advent message. The families, in return, welcome the carollers with delicious Christmas goodies and often some monetary donation for a cause.
“It is a significant practice associated with Christmas, where people visit homes at night to communicate the peace and the message of Christ. It is a time when we wish everybody happiness,” says Reverend AT Zachariah, the vicar of the church.
A group of 20-30 people come together in the evening to sing carols at the homes of their church members until late into the night. Though the church has members across the city, due to logistical difficulties, the youth zeroed in on the Kalina area, where around 15 to 20 families from the church reside.
“It’s a once-in-a-year experience where we come together to visit houses. While it is a lot of fun, it also helps us reach out to the senior members of our church, who, due to their age, are not able to make it to church,” says 25-year-old Rijin Abraham.
Originally from Kerala, the youth, dressed in red and equipped with drums and cymbals, troop from one house to another singing classic Malayalam carols. “People here miss the traditional family Christmas they would enjoy in Kerala. So we choose old classic Malayalam carols that will take them back to Christmas as they remember from their childhood,” says Rowena Shibu, Vakola resident.
Many of the youth members have moved to the city from Kerala for education and employment. Even they nostalgically recollect their Christmas from back home.
For Ajo Varghese, a student who moved to the city to pursue a Masters degree course, it is his first carol rounds outside Kerala and he finds it starkly different.
“In Kerala everyone would be free by evening to come carolling, but here people are always busy and find it hard to make time for such traditions,” he says.
This year, the carol group also found an unlikely participant in Mahek Chhaya. Hearing about the carol rounds from a friend, she was eager to be a part of it.
“I used to watch it in movies, but thought it was a western concept and did not know it happens anywhere around me. I felt this is my one chance at being a part of such a fun experience and tagged along,” Chhaya says.