I asked my three-year-old nephew, what is Christmas. The little one excitedly pointed at the star, the tree, the crib and innocently said we have to eat Kuswar during Christmas. The symbols of Christmas and the celebration have gone hand in hand since centuries. Being the most awaited season of the year in many countries, this fiesta gives a warm glow in one’s heart as this festival strengthens bonds with love, peace and sharing.
When one decks up his home with Christmas decorations, the joy of giving is practiced by presenting gifts and specially sharing ‘Kuswar’ with family members and neighbours.
Kuswar is a term used to refer to a set of Christmas goodies. These are prepared mostly by the Goan Catholic community and the Mangalorean Catholic community.
Kuswar has more than 20 goodies in its menu such as Kidyo or Kulkuls which are curly fried items dipped in sugar treacle, Guliyo or Rice marbles which are delicious to chew and hard to bite, Puffs stuffed with nuts, plums and fried sesame called Neuriyos, the flower shaped sweet rose cookies also known as cookisa, banana chips, rice chakkulis, thukuddis, theel (sesame) ladoos, rice ladoos, rich plum cake, macroons, ragi manni and many more.
These goodies are usually prepared at homes and the preparations start weeks before Christmas. Speaking to City Herald, Plasy Rita Rasquinha says that preparing Kuswar unites the entire family.
“We prepare the Kuswar items well in advance. We also prepare the pudding and cake at home. Though we have to put in a lot of effort, it is an exciting experience as it enlivens the spirit of Christmas,” she says. “I don’t prefer to buy Kuswar from bakeries as they are not very tasty and are pricy. By preparing them at home, we can prepare items according to our taste. Kuswar outside is very costly. A small packet of Kulkuls costs Rs 40. We can prepare triple the quantity of Kuswar in the same amount spent in buying them from outside,” adds Rasquinha.
However, with nuclear family set up and busy schedule, many are unable to prepare Kuswar at home and prefer buying them from outside. “I really miss preparing Kuswar at home. I remember how my mother and aunties used to get together and start the preparations. All the young cousins were given the task of preparing kidiyos, which was exciting as we had to spread the flour mixture on combs and roll it so that they get the shape of worms,” says Jyothi D’Souza. In olden days, it was easier as many people used to be involved. Now, with many of my family members settling abroad and the nuclear family set up, it is very difficult to prepare so many items, plus I also have a job. I try to prepare a couple of items and buy the rest from bakeries, she says and adds that though modernisation has replaced some of the old trends of celebrating festivals, the spirit of the Christmas and the joy of sharing is still the same.
Proprietor of Vas Bakery Balmatta, Lester Vas says that the demand for Kuswar in the bakery has increased over the years. “There was a time when Kuswar was not sold in bakeries as all prepared them in their homes. However, the trend of preparing Kuswar at home is slowly decreasing,” he says.
With the increasing demand of Kuswar the bakery is bustling with people.
Vas reveals that the preparations for Kuswar started in the bakery in mid-November and the preparation of cakes started in the second week of December. “The items are prepared by our staff and we concentrate on quality and hygiene,” he says and adds that Kuswar is not only a delicacy among the Catholics, there are many Hindus who give huge orders for Kalkals and Rice Marbles. Rose Cookies and Neuriyos seem to be the hot favourite of the Muslim community as we get many orders from them.
The Catholics buy all items and also the Kuswar gift boxes and cakes to distribute it among friends and relatives. “Even in the bakery, the spirit of Christmas can be felt as these goodies seem to be uniting all communities,” concludes Vas.