My mother blogs from Goa…
This was to be my second Christmas in Goa. My nephew’s new Goan bride tells me its the best place in India to celebrate Christmas. My daughter asked me what I felt was so special about Christmas in Goa – she thought it was like Christmas everywhere, with houses decorated with stars and lights and Christmas trees and cribs.
But my husband pointed out that Christmas in unique in Goa, in the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas with its cluster of Heritage Homes (and Homestays such as The Mitaroy, Goa where I am staying) and where a lady can safely walk alone for midnight Mass. It is only in Fontainhas that you can have a 400 year old St Sebastian chapel puts chairs on the road for the service since all the houses surrounding it are Catholic and their owners keep their doors open and attend the Mass from their hall rooms! The service for the 500 people gathered together is made meaningful with a live enaction of the Nativity. The beautiful choir had a lovely soprano singing “Mary Did You Know” along with other traditional and new Carols.The short sermon stressed the light that Jesus brought into our lives!
After Mass while sharing the delicious plum cake and hot coffee (generously offered by the priest to foster communal harmony) to ward off the cold (yes, its the only time Goans enjoy a little cold weather) we meet and greet our neighbours -the tiny tots,the teens the adults and very old have all come decked in their Christmas best-one can see all the latest fashion in gowns and skirts. Our famous resident Goa’s famous architect Charles Correa has come with his wife all the way from the other side of the Mandovi because it feels so Christmassy in the old Latin Quarter of Fontainhas.
Almost every house is decorated with lights and stars (some after a fresh coat of paint) in the neighbourhood of Fontainhas with its majority of Catholic residents and for days one hears Carols playing loudly, giving the whole neighbourhood a festive air. “Zai re, maka Zai re, Santa munta maka zai re”- Santa’s season is celebrated with great pomp in Goa. Lunch tables are loaded with traditional fare like roast suckling pig and stuffed turkey. My friend Martha D’ Cunha has invited us for lunch with her extended family – the table groans with the weight of different delicacies like roast stuffed chicken, pork vindaloo, chicken xacutti, beef assad with sannas and Arrroz pulao. The food is accompanied by lots of red wine and sherry and ends with a delicious Christmas pudding and Christmas plum cake made lovingly by the entire family, along with the regular traditional Goan sweets of kuswar, doss, bebinca, nevrios, kulkuls and dodhol. It is okay to indulge this festive season, I tell myself.
The party continues and the festive spirit will last till Goans usher in the the New Year with their own typical bonhomie and camarderie.Yes Goans really do love to enjoy life to the full while welcoming the hordes of tourists who descend on Goa at this time – you dont feel odd to wish a stranger a Merry Christmas – its all one big family celebration!!
Soon it is time to return to Bangalore and to work but I cant help looking forward to another festive Christmas in Goa next year…