Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 16: Christmas is a week or so away but the cash crunch in the wake of the November 8 demonetisation has cast a long shadow over the Yuletide spirit in Kerala.
The winter chill has set in, cakes and other goodies begun to be displayed in shops while Christmas decorations like stars, garlands, baubles, tinsel and other knick-knacks have made an appearance in shops.
However, Christians in Kerala seem unenthusiastic in the face of shortage of hard cash after the spiking of old Rs 500 and 1,000 notes.
As per census figures, Christians account for 61.41 lakh of the 3.34 crore population of Kerala.
"The winter chill has come, but severe shortage of low-denomination currency and long queues in front of ATMs and banks is definitely a dampener. My wife and I have just one joint bank account. Since November 9, we have been standing in bank queues every week to withdraw money. Things do not look very bright," said farmer Punnoose Thomas, 75, in Kottayam.
He said he is expecting his son and his family to arrive from Dubai for the festivities.
Thampi John, dependent on his small rubber plantation in central Kerala, is not pleased with the way things are shaping up in the run-up to Christmas.
He said demonetisation had taken a heavy toll on him and his family since he is finding it difficult to sell rubber sheets he had kept aside for taking care of expenses on Christmas celebrations.
"Till a few years back, rubber price hovered around Rs 100 per kg. Today, the price is around Rs 130, but dealers are paying us in cheques and not in cash. This means we will have to spend a fair amount of time standing in bank queues, which is going to ruin our Christmas festivities," rued John.
Youth organisations attached to most churches are also in a quandary over the effect of the cash crunch when they go out to sing Christmas carols for parishioners.
"After the currency spike and short supply of new Rs 500 notes, it's indeed going to be tough for us. We are yet to decide on what needs to be done. Some have suggested we collect cheques when we go out to sing carols at our people's homes. One suggestion is to borrow a swiping machine from some businessmen attached to our church and ask people to swipe to make donations," said Anish Mathew.
However, not everything seems to be going downhill ahead of Christmas.
Prices of fish and meat have gone down post-demonetisation, which means some consolation for people who enjoy non-vegetarian delicacies during the festivities.