Many of the world's children experience each year one night of anticipation, the night before Christmas. Visions of what might be under the tree the next morning make it difficult for those children to go to sleep. For children in India, however, especially those in the area of Kerala, that same sort of anticipation can last for ten days. It comes from the hope that one could get lots of gifts during the Onam Festival.
The children of Kerala love the harvest festival known as Onam. They have learned that children get new clothes and new toys during the Onam Festival. When children grow into adulthood, then their parents look forward to Onam. During that ten day festival many adults make a point of visiting older family members.
Children of Kerala observe carefully as their parents prepare for the Onam Festival. They are told that the spirit of a former King will be coming to each home in the city. Children watch as their mothers lay out in the courtyard a special carpet. Then those same children see their mothers go into the kitchen and start to prepare a huge feast.
The Onam Festival, held at the time of the Malayalam New Year has many similarities to Norooz, the celebration that takes place during the Persian New Year. During both celebrations children wait eagerly for the chance to eat some of the delicious holiday candy. The dry fruit kesari that is prepared before Onam contains ground nuts, much like the halva that is served prior to the Persian New Year. The children of India also enjoy the sweet taste of the banana halwa.
Outside of the deserts, however, the foods of the two holidays are quite different. A look at the tables of the families that celebrated Onam 2005 would have shown that the main dishes served during the Onam Festival held little resemblance to the main dishes served during Norooz.
For example, foods placed on tables during Onam 2005 included large portions of avail, a vegetable mix, tomato resam, a tomato chutney, and Masala Dosa, what looks like an Indian enchilada. The tables of those who celebrated Norooz contained sabzi polo, a mixture of rice and cut vegetables served with fish. Another popular dish during Norooz has been shirin polo, sweet rice normally served with a sauce called khoresh gimeh.
The ten day Onam Festival would never be allowed to pass without the holding of a carnival. This is the event that the children of Kerala truly love. Why? They love it because there are games and food at the carnival. Beyond the boundaries of the carnival many residents in the area participate in team sports.
Of course there is no school during Onam, just as there is no school during Norooz. Both provide a time when friends and relatives can visit one another. Both call for a break in the normal schedule. Perhaps it is that break that the children love; perhaps it is the candy or the gifts. Any or all of those elements no doubt add to the fun and excitement of the Onam Festival. All of those holiday extras have created a celebration that causes the children to become filled with anticipation.