Aizawl: With Mizoram soaked in Yuletide spirit, Christmas carols and songs are echoing from almost every household in the Christian-dominated state where traditional community feasts still remain the most important part of the festival.
People from a village or a locality congregate and eat together in such feasts where pork and beef are the main dishes besides chicken, fish, vegetables and green salad.
The food is prepared by villagers themselves. These cooks are known as ?Fatus? who are experts in cooking in their own way.
According to C Remtluanga, who hails from South Aizawl?s Venghnuai locality, ?fatus? over the years have been handing over their skill to the next generation.
The food at the feasts are prepared mainly by men while girls and even married women help them by cutting vegetables and serving them tea, he says, adding that young people are trained during these feasts by older and experienced ?fatus?.
Though cooking gas is mostly used for cooking in households here, food for these feasts is cooked on firewood. Food is served on plantain leaves and drinks in cups made of bamboo.
Another peculiar feature of Christmas celebration among the Mizos is that it is a time for singing and the congregation in an appointed hall or house in a village sings Christmas songs composed by Mizo composers like Patea, Kamlala, Damhauha and others in traditional tunes.
Though carols performed by choirs door-to-door have become a thing of the past, Mizo people's love for music and songs is always signified by the way they celebrate Christmas and other festivals, whether religious or traditional.
Be it in a church service or 'lenkhawm' (singing service at an appointed hall or house), songs always play a vital role in the celebrations and also in worship to mark the Christmas festivities.
Even if younger people organise a separate congregation, Christmas songs composed by composers like Rokunga and others on the line of Western music would still be sung.
For the Mizos, like the rest of the Christendom, Christmas is a time for gifts.
Exchanging gifts is very common among friends and relatives. Government departments, NGOs, churches and individuals reach out to the orphanages, jails, corrective homes, rehabs and hospitals with generous gifts so that the inmates can enjoy the festival.
Though Christmas cards are now replaced by text messages and social networking, however, there are many people who still believe that cards are the best way to convey the Christmas message of peace on earth and also love to their near and dear ones.
Mizos celebrated their first-ever Christmas in 1901 at south Mizoram?s Pukpui village and the congregation was headed by Rev. Edwin Rowlands, called by the Mizos as 'Zosapthara'. There were only 47 Christian converts in Pukpui village at that time.
The first Christmas celebrated in Mizo soil was in 1872 when the British army personnel launched armed expedition in Mizoram (then known as Lushai country) celebrated Christmas on the banks of the river Tuivai on the Manipur border. Historians say that Mizo warriors launched guerrilla attacks against the invading troops marring the Christmas celebrations.
Things have changed a lot and the Christmas celebrations have also underwent drastic change.
Besides the traditional praise and worship service and the inevitable community feast, Mizos, especially in capital Aizawl go for street decoration in a big way since a decade ago.
This Christmas, the state government and the Aizawl Municipal Council went further by promising prizes for the best decorated localities.