"I think my family has the most uncommon names for a Syrian Christian family," says Ashok KC, a Syrian Christian, who has been a Bangalore resident for 28 years now. A resident of K Natayanapura, he lives along with his wife Nirmala, who is a chemistry lecturer and his daughter Neha, who is currently studying architecture. "For all practical purposes, we're Bangaloreans now," informs Ashok, who is originally from Cochin, Kerala.
Ashok's family begin their Christmas celebrations on the 1st of December, when they start observing their 25 day long lent. "The rest of the preparations start a week prior to Christmas. We begin by setting up the Christmas tree together. Then we also have a tradition of caroling, where we, along with the other members of the church go from house to house singing carols and spreading cheer," he says. According to Ashok, this serves two purposes - one, it upholds the age old tradition of caroling itself and second, it helps strengthen the bond between the members of the community.
As Syrian Christians, the family believes in making all their Christmas goodies at home. "Our evenings have been very busy. As a family, we spend a lot of time together, preparing special Christmas hampers for our neighbours. This will include the cakes, rose cookies, kulkuls, etc. We also include our non-Christian friends in the celebrations," informs Ashok, who is the CEO of a Swiss based company, Suhner.
Christmas eve is marked by evening Mass at the Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church on Queen's Road. The family especially looks forward to the Christmas lunch on 25th. The Christmas feast is a typical Malayali Syrian Christian one, featuring dishes like the meen pollichathu, Syrian pork dishes, chicken cutlets, and a roast chicken.
"Christmas is a great time for renewing yourself, in my opinion. It's a time for introspection. You need to think about how you can make the people around you happy. And if you can bring a smile to even one person's face, you've succeeded," signs off Ashok.