Holy Week Celebrations in Goa

My mother blogs from Goa…

Due to the Portugese influence in Goa the Holy week is celebrated as a major festival by the many Christians in Goa alongwith their non Christian friends.We used to go to Goa for the Holy Week many years back when the kids were young. Now being able to stay in the Mitaroy Goa Hotel right in the heart of Panjim, my friend Martha encouraged me to celebrate the Holy week with my Goan friends.

Good Friday is celebrated with great reverence by the Goan Catholics.It takes place at the end of the 40 days of prayer and penance of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday. There are special masses and processions in almost every Church but the most spectacular is in the capital city of Panaji.This is celebrated in the square of the Mary Immaculate Conception a few minutes walk from the Mitaroy. Large crowds in formal clothes gather to celebrate the Holy Mass in Konkani(the native language) with the sermon describing the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Then the Holy Cross is uncovered for veneration and then renacting the path of Jesuus on Mount Cavalry the cross with an image of Jesus is carried in solemn procession by clergy dressed in special clothes.People walk along side the cross while the procession is watched by hundreds of Hindus and Christians standing in Fellowship along the way.In fact when I told my Hindu friend that I was going to Goa for the Holy Week he vividly remembered the large specatular procession on Good Friday which he had observed 10 years back!! Somber music accompanies the procession as it winds along the streets of Panjim winding up in the Church.

Although Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence to remember the solemn suffering and death of Jesus,one tradition always indulged in by our family is the buying of Hot Cross buns-special buns with dried fruits and a sugar cross on them.Those who had their feet washed at the Last Supper celebration on the previous day Holy Thursday would have already received theirs from the priest after the washing.

After praying silently on Holy Saturday Christians get ready for Easter to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.Pealing of bells signals the start of the midnight Easter vigil service,the huge crowds of families and friends ensuring the services are held outdors in the Mary Immaculate square, few minutes from the Mitaroy.

Easter Sunday is a time of indulgence with family and friends after the 40 days of Lent.Beautifully decorated Easter eggs and Easter bunnies are bought for children as gifts.

Goa is the best Easter holiday destination and where better to enjoy the celebrations than staying at the Mitaroy surrounded by Churches and Catholic homes all in celebratory moods.Adults and children are dressed in their new finery Street plays,songs,dances and colorful

carnivals enhance the mood.Some organise games for children and adults involving all the family and friends including treasure hunts to find the Easter eggs and bunnies.and exchange colorful Easer lanterns and even Holy Crosses as gifts.Lavish lunches and diinner parties fill the celebrations and some make or buy Easter cakes to share with one other.

As I tiredly find my way back to Bangalore I am glad I took up my friend’s suggestion and celebrated the Holy Week at the Mitaroy Goa, where surrounded by friends we do not miss our children who could not be with us and still recreate the fervour of Good Friday and the celebration of Easter as in the days of yore when as children we celebrated with our big families and friends…Till another Good Friday and Easter then…

Goa churches to preserve historical artefacts

Slowly but surely, Goa is waking up to its rich Portuguese cultural heritage.

After years of lying in various Churches across Goa, Portuguese era artefacts will now be given a new lease of life by Archdiocese of Goa, which is even thinking of creating ‘museums in each of the churches’. Goa’s Catholic Church has decided that the Christian heritage artefacts need to be preserved by forming special heritage cells, that would be manned by experts.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao recently told a gathering near Panaji that every parish (village level community) must take care of the age-old articles lying in the churches. This heritage needs to be “protected, preserved and conserved” in the form of museum, he said. “If needed it should be restored so that it can be passed on to the next generation,” Ferrao said.

The Archbishop of Goa has said that the “absence of (heritage) professionals could be disastrous for the protection and restoration of these artefacts.” “The church is not primarily a custodian of art and architecture. The mission of the church is fundamentally spiritual. A mighty outpouring of human artistic creativity entire to the glory and worship of God has resulted in the Church becoming, defacto, the custodian of immense treasure of culture and artistic heritage,” he added.

After decades of trying to underplay its Portuguese roots, the Catholic Church in Goa seems to be finally waking up and acknowledging its history and heritage.

Not only should these Portuguese era artefacts be used to make the Goan Catholics proud of their heritage, they should also be used to start an intercultural and interfaith dialogue with other cultures and religions based on mutual respect and admiration. By better understanding their own and other cultures, Goa’s multicultural population will be better equipped to live in peace and harmony with one another.