View from my Balcao: A special Christmas in Goa

My dad blogs from Goa…

Goa has always celebrated its Christmas with much gusto, ressurecting the traditional nostalgia with much revelry – read wine, song and a banquet fit for a king, in every home across this tiny, beach-state. Although the population of Goa does not boast of a high percentage of Catholics, Christmas has always been big hereabouts.

You will get to listen to Christmas carols aplenty as you pass by any Catholic home (being painted, decorated and spruced up), as Christmas is in the air, come December 1st !! There are the eternal favourites like “White Christmas” (by American-born Russian Irving Berlin) first performed by Bing Crossby way back in 1941, or Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy) made famous by the Von Trapp singers of Salzburg (Sound of Music, remember) down to the most popular “Silent Night” composed in German by a schoolmaster in Austria in 1818 and declared as an intangible heritage by UNESCO.

Midnight Mass is a well-attended service with devotees spilling out of the many whitewashed Churches of Goa, into the open spaces; Fontainhas, in the Latin quarter boasts of a service held right out in the open with all its predominantly Catholic residents proud to come to the little 400-year-old St Sebastian Chapel – bumped into our neighbour, the legendary architect Charles Correa and his beautiful wife after the service over a piece of cake and coffee, generously served up by the padre !

Retreating to our ancestral-home (now a heritage homestay too), we pour ourselves some hand-made red wine (from my neighbour Pinto, as in Pinsons), something normally associated with Christmas the world over.

Christmas-day is a social affair with a few early visits to neighbours and close friends. otherwise it is a family-lunch that starts at noon and ends whenever you wish it to !

Culinary-wise, the Goan table on Christmas-day recreates a traditional feast handed down the ages with very little modifications. It must include lots of red wine, a pork dish, maybe roast, suckling pig replete with the apple in the mouth or at least sorpotel or cabidela de leitao. Add a roast chicken trussed a la turkey style, a beef assad, a whole fish lathered in reshaad masala and arroz (pullao), to ensure a fitting tribute to the girth of Santa ! Round it off with Christmas plum cake and a sherry … and if you choose to ( well, I did ! ), a fat Cuban cigar – ah ! the world seemed merrier through the blue haze, hic !!

Did I “have yourself a Merry Christmas” ( Frank Sinatra’s rendition is superb) ? The answer is simply – yes I did – and a full “12 days of Christmas” (amusingly calculated by PNC Wealth Mgmt to cost $ 107,300) !!!

 Thank God for our home in Goa, now restored as Mitaroy Goa Heritage HomeStay in the Latin quarter of Fontainhas.

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