Vishu Festival heralds the beginning of Malayalese New Year and is celebrated in a big way in the state of Kerala and the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu. Vishu falls on the first day in the Malayalam month of Medam. As per the Gregorian Calendar Vishu falls on the 14 April, the same day when Punjab celebrates Baisakhi, Tamil Nadu celebrates Puthandu, Assam celebrates Ronagali Bihu and Bengal celebrates Naba Barsha. Auspicious day of Vishu marks the Sun's transit to the zodiac Mesha Raasi as per Indian astrological calculations.
Traditional people of Kerala celebrated Vishu with lot of joy and mirth. One very interesting custom of Vishu is Vishukani or Kani Kanal (first sight). Under this tradition there is a prescribed list of items that people see first thing on a Vishu morning. The custom stems from the strong belief of the people of Kerala that good things seen on the New Year day brings good luck for the entire year. Ladies of the house make preparation for Vishukani on a previous night. They would keep prescribed items including a cadjan leaf book, gold ornaments, fresh white cloth, a measure of rice or paddy, flowers of the Konna tree (Cussia fistula), halved jack fruits, halved coconuts and yellow cucumber in a big pot. Behind this pot is kept the bell metal mirror and a garlanded deity of Lord Krishna. Two standing oil lamps are also placed before the deity. Master of the house is the first person to take a look at auspicious things. Children are brought blind folded from their rooms to watch Vishukani. Many people in Kerala prefer to perform Vishukani in temples. Vishukani is offered to Gods and is later distributed amongst poor and needy.
Children are given gifts or small amount of cash on the Vishu Day in a belief that it ensures prosperity for children. This tradition is called Vishu Kaineetam.
To celebrate the auspicious festival of Pooram Vishu people of Kerala wear kodi vastram (new clothes). People sing, dance and make merry. Patassu (firecrackers) are also burst to mark the New Year day. Another attractive feature of the festival is the grand sadya (feast) prepared by the ladies of the house. Special dishes are prepared using jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins and gourd besides other seasonal vegetables and fruits. Characteristic feature of a Vishu meal is that the food items consist of roughly equal proportions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter items. Popular feast dishes include ‘Veppampoorasam' (a bitter preparation of neem) and ‘Mampazhapachadi' (a sour mango soup).
In villages of Kerala, young men and women dress up as the 'chozhi' by wearing a skirt of dried banana leaves and masks on their faces. These entertainers would then move from house to house and collect reward for their performances. The money collected by them is spent in Vishuwela or the New Year Fairs.