Well, hello all!
Vishu Aashamskal, and Tamil Puthaandu Vazhthukkal!
I hope I got that second one correct, am weak in Tamil you see!
I'm here to enlighten you, (or bore you, whichever holds good!), on Vishu.
Vishu is the Malayalee New Year..! Vishu is also considered as the harvest festival of Kerala and thus the importance of this day to all Malayalees. The festival is marked with offerings to the divine called Vishukkani. The offerings consist of a ritual arrangement in the puja room of auspicious articles like raw rice, fresh linen, golden cucumber, betel leaves, arecanut, metal mirror, the yellow flowers konna (Cassia fistula), and a holy text and coins, in a bell metal vessel called uruli. A lighted bell metal lamp called nilavilakku is also placed alongside. This arrangement is completed the previous night. On the day of Vishu, the custom is to wake up at dawn and go to the puja room with the eyes closed so that the Vishukkani is the first sight of the new season. Since the occasion marks the beginning of Malayalam New Year, it is also considered auspicious to read verses from Hindu Holy book Ramayanam after seeing the "Vishukkani". It is also believed by some that the page of the Ramayanam to which you open up will have a bearing on your life in the coming year.
The grandmother or mother who arranges the Vishukkani will sleep in the puja room after she is finished and then, waking during the auspicious hour of the Brahma muhurtham (4:00 to 6:00 a.m.), she will light the oil-lamp wicks and take in the auspicious sight. She will then walk to the rooms where the rest of the family is sleeping and wake them. Covering their eyes, she will then lead them to the puja room, where she will allow them to take in the auspicious sight.
Upon opening one's eyes, one is overwhelmed with the glorious darshan of the Lord. The mirror—which is symbolic of Bhagavati (Devi), not only increases the lustre of the Vishukkani via the reflection it offers, but also shows our own face. The mirror also points to the importance of making our mind pure enough to render devotional service with true and unadulterated love to the Lord.
The Vishukkani is not reserved only for those who come to the puja room, but is taken around—for the viewing of the elderly and sick who are perhaps too frail to come to the shrine.
Vishukkani points to a year of abundance—both spiritually and materially. Food, light, money, knowledge—all should fill our life. Taking in the Vishukkani we should pray that the vision remains with us throughout the year. It is not enough that the joy we take from viewing the Vishukkani comes only to our eyes. It must reflect in our thoughts and in our actions. The auspicious start of the year—which has come to us due to the grace of beginning it with a divine vision—is not for us alone. It is up to us to spread this love, happiness and hope to the rest of society.
Kaineetam : Children wait eagerly for this ritual. The elders of the family starting with the grand father or father give away Kaineetam to the younger ones. The Kaineetam consists of coins (now mostly notes) with Konna flowers, rice and the gold from the Uruli. The gold and the rice are returned to the Uruli and touch the eyes with flower. Earlier days, it was a custom to give Kaineetam to all the people associated with the house such as servants, field workers and land-tenants. The principle is the symbolic sharing of the prosperity and wishing happiness for all.
Thats the details that matter...
PS: I am not the sole owner of these words! Every Mallu will agree to these though! :)