Kochi celebrates the Pappanji Burning Festival every year on the night of 31st of December as part of the New Year bash. This celebration is unique to Kochi. Thousands of people gather at Fort Kochi beach to take part in the festival. Crowds gather from noon, and at 12 o’clock the effigy of Pappanji is burnt to welcome the New Year.
There is no one authentic explanation on how this festival started. The word pappanji is from Portuguese, which means grandfather. Till the beginning of the 16th Century, Kochi was under Portuguese rule and descendants from that period still live at Fort Kochi. In the Pappanji Burning Festival, the organisers make an effigy of an old man in European attire. He wears a suit, boots, a hat, glasses, and holds a walking stick. His long white beard is prominent. The effigy of Pappanji is filled with crackers.
Pappanji is often mistaken with Santa Claus. Santa Claus is associated with Christmas and is not burned anywhere. Pappanji is an entirely different concept which is linked with New Year and prevails only in Kochi. People from different classes, castes, and religions enjoy the Pappanji Burning Festival. Older generations of people from Kochi say that they have been seeing the burning of the Pappanji effigies in different parts of Kochi since their childhood. Since 1984 organisers of the Cochin Carnival have taken the initiative to organize this.