This extremely unusual ring is the ultimate in cross-cultural form and iconography. From the Cochin area of Kerala, in India’s tropical south, it is a large brass finger ring cast with a European Christmas-inspired scene of a sleigh and reindeer. The hoop of the ring arches upwards to give the impression that the reindeer are flying.
The sleigh, in European Christmas lore, is used by Saint Nicholas (also known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus) to deliver Christmas gifts to children around the world. The sleigh is pulled by a team of magical, flying reindeer.
There are eight reindeer on the ring – in keeping with Christmas tradition. The reindeer’s names are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen, based on the 1823 poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (commonly called ‘The Night Before Christmas’).
That Christmas iconography should be used in Cochin and Kerala more generally is not unexpected. Cochin was occupied by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century and thereafter maintained strong trading links with Europe. Christianity was established there early on and today, Cochin is home to the oldest church in India, as well as a vibrant local Indian Christian community.
The ring is in excellent condition.
St Francis Church in Cochin, the first church to be build in India, photographed in January 2015.