02 September 2008

Palm Sunday-Passover ( Pesaha)-Good Friday-Easter among Nasrani Syrian Christians of Kerala

Passover (Hebrew: פסח; transliterated as Pesach or Pesah), also called חג המצות (Chag HaMatzot - Festival of Matzot) is celebrated among Nasrani’s.The breaking of bread, a bread that is broken amidst family members on Maundy Thursday in memory of the breaking of bread by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago .
Passover commemorates the Exodus and freedom of the Israelites from ancient Egypt. As described in the Book of Exodus, Passover marks the “birth” of the Jewish nation, as the Jews’ ancestors were freed from being slaves of Pharaoh and allowed to become servants of God instead.
This is another surviving Jewish tradition among the Nasranis, the tradition of Pesaha-appam or unleavened Passover bread. On passover night, the Nasrani people have Pesaha-appam along with Pesaha-pal or “Passover coconut milk”.

From the very olden days, Nasrani Christians makes Pesaha Appam and Pesaha Pal in their house. The tradition is making of the Pesaha Appam is the resposnisbilty of Head of family and Pesaha Pal is made by woman of the house.During the process of making Pesaha Appam and Pesaha Pal family members should spend time in prayer.

Pesaha need to be observed in every year. Nasrani’s also has a traditions that Pesha is not celebrated in an year when some one of immediate family dies.

Pesaha Appam Ingredients –1. Rice Flour (not roasted)- – 1 kg 2. Coconut, grated – 3 cup (Blended)2. Urad Dal(Uzhunnu)-200 gm3. Red or small Onion, White Onion, Cumin Powder, Salt - As needed Soak the Uzhunnu for a few hours. Grind the Urad Dal (Uzhunnu). Red or small Onion, White Onion, Cumin Powder separately. Add everything together and make a dough of Idli Maavu consistency. Grease preferably steel plates of medium round shape or on plantain leaf. Make a cross of palm leaf obtained on Palm Sunday on it. Steam till well done.

Pesaha Pal Ingredients – Roasted rice powder-1 cup Sarkkara(molasses)-1 cup Cardamom powder, Chukku- As needed Coconut-1 Mix all together and boil it in Clay vessel. The tradition is to use new clay vessel for preparing Pesaha pal. When it get boiled put small banana pieces and palm leaf obtained on Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday Celebrations among Nasrani’s

Oshana Nhayarazhcha (Palm Sunday) is also called Kurutholapperunnal. A ceremonial procession around the church, with people holding the palm leaves and singing hosanna forms the highlight of the day’s ceremony. On Ash Wednesday (karikkuripperunnal) the blessed palm fronds received the previous year are burnt in every Christian home and members of the family mark their foreheads with the ash. A few sects, however, burn the kuruthola on a different occasion.

Observing Pesaha

Pesaha is observed in the leadership of head of family. After the evening prayer, should recite words from the bible on breaking of bread.Head of the family should do the breaking of bread in to thirteen pieces. In prayers he should give it women of house soacking it in Pesha Pal. It should be distributed to the family members according to the age first to the eldest and then to the younger one. On Pesaha – Maundy Thursday there is a special church service with Holy Communion.

Good Friday among Nasrani’s

Over the years, Christians in Kerala have seen traditions being given the go by - be it weddings, funerals or other ceremonies. But the ritual of drinking choruka (a decoction made of bitter gourd juice and vinegar) and gruel (kanji) on Good Friday continues to be observed without change. Good Friday is observed as a day of prayers, penance and fasting to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary Hills nearly 2,000 years ago. Good Friday is of great significance and church service starts at 9 a.m. and continues until about 3 p.m., when it is believed that Christ was crucified.

In most churches, Good Friday highlight is the `Nagarikanickal’ ritual, where the crucifix is carried through the streets in a procession with hundreds of followers.The `Way-of-the-Cross’, the 14 stations on Christ’s Journey to Mount Calvary from Pilate’s palace, was re-enacted with the worshippers moving to each station singing hymns as the story, which leads to the betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion of Christ, was narrated by the priest.The most solemn moment is the drinking of ‘choruka’. This is made of bitter gourd, vinegar and a mixture of select herbs and is given to every person who arrives to attend the Good Friday service.This symbolises the event which took place when Jesus, while on the cross and just before he died, called out and hearing his cries some of those watching the event took a piece of cloth, dipped it in cheap wine, put it on a piece of stick and lifted it to his mouth and tried to make him drink.Soon after this, the Good Friday service comes to a close in the churches here.Later on, people line up to drink the gruel (kanji) made out of rice, pulses and mango pickle.

Easter among Nasrani’s

Christians in Kerala began celebrating Easter Sunday morning after observing a 50-day lent.For many Kerala Christians, the day began with a visit to a church as early as 2 a.m. Sunday morning, while in some churches the Easter mass began along with the sunrise.For Christians, the most important meal on an Easter day is a heavy breakfast comprising of appam, made out of rice powder, mutton or chicken stew, steamed bananas, eggs and cakes.Time was when family members from far and wide used to come to their ancestral home on the Easter Sunday.

They maintain Lent fifty days prior to Easter. Those who do so eat only vegetarian meals and refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages. Easter week is very important with special church services on Palm Sunday and also every evening including Good Friday. Easter is the day when they gulp down less of wine and more of hard liquor.

Historically, the resurrection of Christ occurred at the time of the Jewish feast of Passover (called “Pesach” in Hebrew). In the early years of Christianity, Jewish Christians observed resurrection and Passover together on the 14th day of Nisan, the Jewish month roughly corresponding with April. However, Gentile Christians celebrated the resurrection every Sunday with a special emphasis on the Sunday closest to Nisan 14. To settle this difference, at the Nicene Council in A.D. 325, churchmen fixed the date of Easter on the first Sunday following the Paschal full moon. This is the first full moon after the vernal equinox, 21 March. This system is still followed today. Therefore, Easter Sunday moves between 22 March and 25 April.

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