Christmas is right around the corner and Goa, the beach paradise insistently beckons. Goa might seem like any other tourist destination. However, it has a culture that is unique to the rest of India. Centuries of Portuguese influence have made a noticeable difference in the way Goans eat, dress and celebrate their festivals. Here are some interesting Christmas traditions.
Christmas Tradition #1: Carol singing
A carol is a song or hymn on the theme of Christmas. Singing Christmas carols is one of the most popular Christmas traditions held both in the cities and the villages of Goa. Usually, a group of singers dress up in Christmas costumes representing the nativity scene and Santa Claus. They go from house to house singing Christmas carols and wishing the residents for Christmas and New Year. Santa Claus does a little jig and distributes sweets to everyone in the house. If you have been on the lookout for villas for sale in Goa and plan to have settled in by Christmas then do keep some refreshments ready for the carol singers whose visit will get you into the festive spirit.
Christmas Tradition #2: Star Making
Almost every Catholic house has a star hanging outside the front door or from the balcony during the Christmas season. People traditionally made stars of bamboo sticks, wire and white kite paper with tassels of gold or silver paper. Today readymade stars are easily available and convenient. The fun though is in the gathering of family and friends. Everyone jins in to cut and shape the bamboo and stick the craft paper with homemade glue. Star makers make the stars wider in the center to accommodate a bulb within which looks very pretty at night. Star making is not just a fun group activity to celebrate the festivities, it also gets competitive. Groups compete within their villages or at an all Goa level to showcase their creativity and ingenuity.
Christmas Tradition #3: Tree and Crib Decoration
As with the stars, every catholic home builds a crib as part of their Christmas decor. Known as a “gotto”, every crib is unique and depicts the birth of Jesus. Clay or glass figures of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, an angel, the Three Kings, shepherds, assorted camels, and sheep decorate the diorama. The landscapes may not always accurately represent those in Bethlehem. They are, however, interesting and creative with seeds sown weeks in advance to produce realistic-looking grass. Cribmakers use mirrors for lakes and sometimes you might even find a waterfall. Christmas trees often overlook the nativity diorama. Christmas trees (Araucaria) in Goa were traditionally grown in a pot or in the garden. If not locals planted a branch of the casuarina tree in a pot and decorated with tinsel, fairy lights and baubles. Lately they have been substituted with artificial Christmas trees which when decorated look just as festive and inviting.
Christmas Tradition #4: The making of sweets
If you own a villa in Goa or even if you are just visiting during Christmas you must taste traditional Christmas sweets. Also known as “Kuswar”, Goans exchange these goodies with neighbours, relatives and friends. Expect bebinca, dos, neureos, coconut toffee, dodol, bath, marzipan, kulkuls, mandare, and the traditional and rich fruit cake. In the old days in Goa, when families were bigger, everyone would gather forty to fifty days before Christmas to prepare the cake mix. Christmas cake gets its delicate moistness and richness from the raisins, glazed dates, black currants, cherries, dates, candied oranges, cashew nuts, pistachios and almonds. Reputed cake makers marinate these ingredients in a mixture of rum, whiskey, brandy, spices and honey for forty days or more. It is a delight to sample a slice of well made Christmas cake.
Goan homes have a variety of Christmas traditions from attending midnight mass to attending formal dances. From stitching suits and gowns for the mentioned formal dances to enjoying grand Christmas lunch feasts with a minimum of ten dishes on the menu. There is no way that you can recreate the Goan Christmas spirit except by immersing yourself in the culture come season time. While you are on the lookout for your dream luxury villa in Goa take the time to make friends with the locals. You will find that it is easy to embrace and enjoy the friendly indo-western culture.