Laying out the traditional and elaborate pookalam heralds the arrival of the auspicious festival of Onam in Kerala Image Credit: Supplied

According to the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India, Onam became the state festival of Kerala in 1961. Thousands of national and international tourists visit the state to join in the celebrations every year, as it displays its cultural heritage. Keralites in the UAE — and across the globe — come together to mark this special occasion. Dance, flowers and food form a large part of the celebrations, and people also exchange gifts.
Some UAE residents share their Onam memories and tell us about the gifts they have cherished.

Muraleedharan Punnamanna
Finance manager
Since childhood, Onam to me meant the time you got new clothes as gifts. I still wait for new clothes from my mother and brothers who live in India. If I am not in Kerala for Onam, they courier my gift and make sure that I wear it on Onam day. I fondly remember my big Onam surprise when my wife gave me a pair of new clothes during our first Onam together.

Sneha Mathews
Marketing specialist
The Onam gift I cherish most is the kasavu saree my husband presented me with. My most memorable Onam was three years back, when I celebrated it along with my birthday. I was also expecting my second baby then. In all, the day was perfect with friends, a grand sadya and a lovely necklace from my husband.

Nancy King
Since childhood I remember Onam as a day when we wore new clothes, sat on the floor and enjoyed sadya off plantain leaves. There were no gifts then, it was just an occasion to get together and crack jokes after a hearty meal. But after my wedding, my husband made it a point that we celebrate Onam in all its fervour. A few years ago, while in Kerala during Onam, he took the entire family to Karalkada, a famous shop in Kerala that deals in traditional Malayali clothing, and got us all a kodi each. However, the best gift during Onam is being able to spend time with one’s family.

Malvikha Manoj
School student
A few years earlier, my uncle, who was working in Bahrain, visited us in Dubai for Onam and gave me a trendy bicycle, one I had always wanted. But my most memorable Onam was when my grandparents travelled from Kerala to join us here and got us Onam goodies from home.

Deepan Parameswar
Account director
Onam by itself is a wonderful gift for every Malayali. It is a package of sweet memories with songs, flowers, colours, greenery, get-togethers, the boat race and pulikali. Being in Kerala during Onam is the best gift I could wish for. The most cherished gifts I received are the Onapudavas from my parents and grandparents.

Vimitha Deepak
Executive officer
During my childhood days, a ten-rupee note from my grandparents was the most precious and unforgettable gift I recollect having received for Onam. Since most of my family members live in the UAE, we miss being in Kerala during the festive season. More than any gift, I am looking forward to celebrating Onam with my sisters, wearing the white kasavu saree and having a traditional meal.

Reema Sidney Simon
Marketing professional
I have never received a gift for Onam. Most of the Malayalis living here would love to just get a free ticket and a paid holiday for Onam to spend time with their parents back in Kerala. As my parents are already here, all that I can think I’d like for Onam is, maybe, a new saree. I hope my husband is reading this.

Sathy Sekhar
Accounting supervisor
My most cherished Onam wish is to get someone to arrange a complete package of traditional Onam games and events in its entirety for my family members in Kottayam, my home town. The best Onam gift I received was in 2004, when my daughter Sandra was born, just a couple of days before Onam.

Regional cards operating coordinator
New clothes and gold jewellery are the best Onam gifts. My most unforgettable Onam gift was a total surprise, two years back. After having my bath I was about to light the lamp and found these gifts waiting for me — an Onam saree, a gold necklace, a pair of earrings, ring and bangles. I was overwhelmed by my family’s gesture.

Jithu G. Sharatchandran
I cannot forget the expression on my mother’s face when I got her Onakodi that I had bought with my first salary — my own money. Her happy face with the world’s brightest smile flashes across my mind each time I think of an Onam gift. I will miss her
this time but will send her a gift
for sure.

Asha Arun
Legal assistant
During the Onam in 2007, I was not eager to celebrate it as my husband was in Dubai, and me and my son were back in Kerala, still waiting for the family visa to join him. To our surprise, on Thiruvonam day, my husband arrived with bags full of expensive gifts. But I must say the best gift was his presence itself. With their family members spread all across the globe, for many people from Kerala a reunion during Onam is often difficult to realise. Therefore, my secret wish for Onam is to have my entire family gathered at one place to layout the pookalam, exchange Onakodi and prepare and enjoy the elaborate Onasadya.