Christmas in Goa – Reflections

Christmas in Goa - Reflections

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…

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When to go and where to stay in Goa ?

This week, Angela asked the following question: When to go and where to stay in Goa?

When to go to Goa is a real tough choice. People I speak to have different opinions and each person seems to love Goa in a particular season. Basically, when to go to Goa can be divided into 3 different options:

1. Christmas / New Years in Goa: Christmas and New Years is the peak season for Goa. It is when EVERYONE and when I say everyone, I mean everyone, thinks of going to Goa. While most Europeans book their New Years holiday to Goa well in advance, most Indians do it at the last minute. On the negative side, Goa is terribly busy and expensive at this time of the year. But on the positive side, Goa is at its most happening during the New Year’s period. Visitors get to experience Goa in its best avataar with rocking beach parties, dances and live music everywhere. 

2. Goa Monsoon: The monsoon in Goa is not for everyone. Some people love Goa in the monsoon and some people absolutely hate it. And unlike in most other parts of India and of the world, the monsoon in Goa is quite unique. From mid June to the end of September, the rain lashes down on Goa with great fury. Especially in July and August, there seems to be no letdown from the rain as it pours and pours and pours (well, you get the message) the whole day and night. But if you dont mind getting a bit wet, then the monsoon in Goa is also the time when you get to see a different side of Goa – when most of the tourists are away, Goa sort of relaxes and lets its hair down. The scenery and the greenery are absolutely stunning at this time. Do it like the French, wear shorts, take heavy duty umbrellas and you will really learn to enjoy the Goan monsoon. 

3. Rest of the year: Apart from New Years and the Monsoon, Goa is pretty much the same the rest of the year. The prices are more reasonable, there are fewer tourists and getting around Goa is much easier. For those who have the time, I would suggest Jan – April or October – November as great pre-season times to visit Goa. 

As for where to stay in Goa, Goa has loads and loads of places to stay, depending on your budget and your interests. Most people head to North Goa to the Baga-Calangute strip. This is where all the “action” is and most people choose a medium budget hotel in this area. For those who find North Goa too expensive / crowded, they usually head to South Goa which is not yet as developed / popular as North Goa and hence is much cheaper and quieter. 

Many tourists however are looking to experiment and staying in offbeat areas such as Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter of Panjim. Here you find quaint old Portuguese houses, small bye lanes, a baker cycling by, dogs lying in the sun and cats licking themselves in the shade. Fontainhas is the other Goa, where those looking to learn more about Goan culture and history come to visit and stay. Many photographers (hobby and professional) fall in love with Fontainhas as there is so much old world history to capture in their lenses. Many tourists who stay in Fontainhas love to simply walk about for hours, soaking up the Latin atmosphere. Fontainhas is also home to my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay (www.mitaroygoahotel.com) – my mother’s ancestral heritage home that I converted into a Homestay.